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Rights Group Cites Isolated Summary Executions in E. Ukraine

Bullet casings are seen in front of a mass grave near a local mine in the village of Nyzhnya Krynka, eastern Ukraine, Sept. 23, 2014.

A leading international human rights group says that both Russia-backed separatists and pro-Kyiv forces have been responsible for "isolated incidents" of summary killings in eastern Ukraine, but that Russian media and authorities have exaggerated the scale of such crimes committed by the latter.

In a briefing published Monday, Amnesty International said "the handful" of such cases in eastern Ukraine it has been able to report on "with confidence" suggest "strongly" that both sides have carried out "at least some" extra-judicial killings.

In late September, Russian media reported that "mass graves" had been discovered in areas near two villages in eastern Ukraine's Donetsk region which had been held by pro-Kyiv forces. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov later said that more than 400 bodies were found in the mass graves.

However, Amnesty International, which sent a delegation to the area after the graves were discovered, said it was able to identify three grave sites containing a total of nine bodies, five of which appear to have been pro-Russian separatists "killed in the course of hostilities."

The London-based group said there is "strong evidence" that the four remaining bodies were people "extra-judicially executed by Kyiv-controlled forces."

Some rebel sources, as well as Russian media outlets and authorities, "have significantly exaggerated the number of bodies found and the scale of the possible war crimes committed," Amnesty International said.

According to the group, separatist forces summarily executed several people in eastern Ukraine's Luhansk region in separate incidents this past spring and summer, including three men accused of dealing drugs.

At least 3,500 people have been killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine since it started in April.

Some information in this report was provided by AP.