On April 7 2022, an Imgur post claimed that Russian “mobile crematoriums” had been deployed in Ukraine, specifically to conceal the high number of civilian casualties at the hands of Russian forces:
Across an image of bombed out apartment buildings, text read:
With the world reeling from the endless murdered civilians in Bucha, Russia is now employing mobile crematoriums to disappear the dead as they pull back.
An attached image appeared to have been captured from drone footage of devastation in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol. A CNN video published on April 4 2022 included matching imagery at the three-second mark.
Claims about Russian mobile crematoriums were not new in early April 2022; on February 29 2022, at the beginning of the invasion, France24 fact-checked the provenance of the purported images attached to the same claim. That outlet noted that the images were unrelated and from 2013, adding:
[The images or video were] posted by a Russian incinerator construction company and is not footage from the ground. The use of mobile crematoriums by Russians during the current war in Ukraine is yet to be verified.
On March 1 2022, a user on Reddit’s r/ukraine posted about Russian mobile crematoriums to conceal civilian deaths — using the images from the France24 fact check:
A March 17 2022 video segment by MSNBC (“Mobile cremation machine reports in Ukraine are ‘credible’ as Russian forces face losses”) featured the following description, reiterating that the reports were “credible”:
NBC’s Richard Engel says reports that Russians brought mobile cremation machines into Ukraine are “credible,” but there has been no evidence that they have been used.
CNN quoted Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky in a March 23 2022 article, as he referenced the use of mobile crematoriums earlier that month:
The Ukrainian government has claimed that the Russian army sent mobile crematoriums to burn their own dead. “The Russian people dying here, nobody is counting them, people dying in this war. Do you know they have brought a cremation chamber with them? They’re not going to show the bodies to their families. They’re not going to tell the mothers that their children died here,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told reporters in a briefing on March 3 .
On April 1 2022, another user referenced the use of mobile crematoriums:
Speculation short war expectations means mobile crematoriums brought into Ukraine were meant for the Ukrainians the Russians would planned to execute. Now seems Ukraine’s only chance – can’t mount an insurgency when they’ll make fertiliser out of people at a whim. from ukraine
On April 4 2022, news of mass civilian casualties in the Ukrainian city of Bucha came to light. Russia immediately attempted to claim the deaths were “staged,” which was quickly debunked by satellite imagery:
On April 6 2022, independent Russian news outlet The Moscow Times published “Russian Mobile Crematoria Burn Dead in Mariupol, Council Says,” citing officials in the city of Mariupol:
Russian mobile crematoria have been operating in Mariupol in an apparent bid to hide the death toll amid intense fighting in the Ukrainian city, local officials said … There have been multiple reports that mobile crematoria have accompanied the Russian army since the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, but no independent verification.
That story contained a link to an April 6 2022 statement shared to Telegram by the Mariupol City Council. An automatically translated version read:
‼ ️The killers are covering their tracks. Russian mobile crematoria have started operating in Mariupol. After the widespread international genocide in Bucha, Russia’s top leadership ordered the destruction of any evidence of crimes committed by its army in Mariupol. One week ago, cautious estimates put the death toll at 5,000. But given the size of the city, catastrophic destruction, the duration of the blockade and fierce resistance, tens of thousands of civilians from Mariupol could fall victim to the occupiers. That is why Russia is in no hurry to give the green light to the Turkish mission and other initiatives to save and fully evacuate Mariupol. In addition, all potential witnesses to the occupiers’ atrocities are being identified through filtration camps and destroyed.
The Russians left all the dirty work to the collaborators. Eyewitnesses report that the racists recruited local and DNR terrorists to special brigades. They collect and burn the bodies of Mariupol residents murdered and killed as a result of the Russian invasion. The work of these groups is directly coordinated by the self-proclaimed mayor-collaborator Kostiantyn Ivashchenko. For many years he and his associates repeatedly tried to seize power, but eventually he managed to become except that the director of the Mariupol crematorium.
“The world has not seen the scale of the tragedy in Mariupol since the Nazi concentration camps. The racists turned our whole city into a death camp. Unfortunately, the eerie analogy is gaining more and more confirmation. This is no longer Chechnya or Aleppo. This is the new Auschwitz and Maidanek. The world should help punish Putin’s villains, “said Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko.
On the same day, Adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Anton Gerashchenko tweeted:
Russians launch mobile crematoriums in #Mariupol, city council reports. After #Bucha, they are hiding the evidence. Urgent Immediate action is required from @UN, @OSCE @ICRC. Get into cities and collect evidence of crimes! @IntlCrimCourt#RussiaWarCrimes #GenocideOfUkrainians pic.twitter.com/uSmpdhyEwM
— Anton Gerashchenko (@Gerashchenko_en) April 6, 2022
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was not the first time allegations that Russia deployed mobile crematoriums in Ukraine have appeared. A May 2015 Bloomberg.com article, “Russia Is Using Mobile Crematoriums to Hide Ukraine Dead,” attributed claims about their usage to American lawmakers who visited Ukraine at that time:
Russia is so desperate to hide its military involvement in Ukraine that it has brought in mobile crematoriums to destroy the bodies of its war dead, say U.S. lawmakers who traveled to the war-torn country [in the spring of 2015].
The U.S. and NATO have long maintained that thousands of Russian troops are fighting alongside separatists inside eastern Ukraine, and that the Russian government is obscuring not only the presence but also the deaths of its soldiers there. In March , NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow told a conference, “Russian leaders are less and less able to conceal the fact that Russian soldiers are fighting — and dying — in large numbers in eastern Ukraine.”
On April 6 2022, claims that Russian forces had deployed mobile crematoriums in order to conceal the scale of civilian deaths in Bucha, Mariupol, and other Ukrainian cities recirculated after the Mariupol City Council issued a statement via Telegram. Rumors of their usage circulated as early as February 28 2022, initially with a misattributed image. On March 17 2022, a report by MSNBC described the rumors as “credible,” but evidence of their use was predictably difficult to come by. However, American lawmakers observing earlier Russian violence in Ukraine returned with similar reports in May 2015.