Up to 20,000 bodies have been found in a mass grave of Nazi execution victims in a village in Russia 80 years after it was occupied by the Third Reich.
Experts found the remains dating back to the Second World War in various burial sites around the village of Borki in Pskov region.
Remains of up to 50 victims with multiple gunshot wounds have been found in the first exhumation, with many more expected to be discovered.
The hunt began after the work of local teacher and ethnographer Olga Petrova in researching genocide committed during the war in that region.
It is believed that women, children and the elderly were brought in trucks to be executed.
The finds have led to a formal criminal case for genocide being opened by the Russian Investigative Committee.
Ms Petrova said: “There are memories of Raisa Gorokhova, who was a child at that time.
“In one of several covered trucks [which took people to be shot], she made out the face of a teacher Maria Voitsekhovskaya.
“She had a son, aged three. And she shouted: ‘Good people, they are taking us for execution in Borki. Help us’.”
A video from Vesti Pskov shows the investigative committee’s officers digging up the human remains.
Igor Neofitov, head of the Pamyat (‘Memory’) search unit, said: “The depth of the burial is not yet known.
“But it is clear that people were shot here multiple times.
“There are both summer and winter shoes of the murdered, including children.”
He added: “While the search operations are underway, we still do not quite understand the scale of the disaster.
“The first location has already been found, and it is clear that the work here may last months not weeks.”
The Germans occupied this area on July 15th, 1941, and it is estimated that up to 20,000 civilians were shot.
A number of possible locations of mass graves are now being investigated.
Classified documents will be made available to investigators, but the evidence suggests victims were moved to the site from both Pskov and Smolensk regions.
Elena Tsunaeva, of the Russian Search Movement, said: ‘After the end of the war, an investigation was carried out.
“But not everyone was punished then.
‘Nevertheless, now declassified archive documents and search results will help restore a full list of people who became victims of genocide during the war years.”