Russian investigators has said they were probing a WWII-era mass grave after unearthing the remains of over 130 people in a region occupied by Nazi forces early in the war.
The Investigative Committee said in a statement that its criminologists and volunteers looked for mass graves near the town of Luga, which was used as a base by the German army advancing on Leningrad — now Saint Petersburg — in 1941.
"During the search works, bone remains of 134 Soviet prisoners of war were found," as well as fragments of belongings and coins, the statement said.
Luga was the site of a "very harsh" prisoner of war camp, where many prisoners were executed, the investigators said.
Volunteers with the local Vityaz group which searches for unmarked graves of Soviet soldiers, worked on the site in late April, and said the remains included one of a baby.
"According to documents, there were 11,000 killed" in the two camps that operated in Luga until May 1942, Vityaz coordinator Nikolai Bukhtiarov wrote on his VK page, but most graves have been built over.
Russia will mark the 75th anniversary of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany on Friday, May 9, though celebrations have been scaled down considerably due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Over 20 million Soviet citizens lost their lives in the war, and millions are still officially missing, with volunteer groups looking for their remains at known locations of battles and camps.
Volunteers across the country have also been cleaning up war monuments and military sites ahead of Victory Day.
One group were tidying up bunkers constructed to stop the German advance near the village of Ilyinskoye southwest of Moscow.
"They organised the defense here with help of cadets" from two colleges, one of the volunteers, retired airforce officer Alexei Metlov, told AFP.
"This is 100 kilometres from Moscow and there were no other troops available" in 1941, he said near the small concrete pillbox structure which volunteers adorned with a red flag.
"We try to keep the memory alive," said 42-year-old Anna Rizvanova, who came to plant trees and flowers at the site with her five daughters.