Researchers in Western Russia have made the gruesome discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of some 20,000 victims of the Nazis.
Remains of up to 50 victims with multiple gunshot wounds have been found in the first exhumation, and many more are expected, say reports.
The hunt began after the work of local teacher and ethnographer Olga Petrova in researching World War Two genocide in the area around the village of Borki in Pskov region.
She said: "There are memories of Raisa Gorokhova, who was a child at that time.
“In one of several covered trucks [which were taking 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’.”
Women, children and the elderly were brought in trucks to be executed, it is believed.
The finds have led to a formal criminal case for genocide being opened by the Russian Investigative Committee.
A video from Vesti Pskov shows the 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.
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“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 15 July 1941 and estimates are 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 here 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.”
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