Red Cross requests access to Ukraine prison after deaths of prisoners of war

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia launched overnight attacks on several Ukrainian cities, Ukrainian officials said Saturday, as they and officials in Moscow blamed each other for the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in a separatist-controlled area in the east of the country. .

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross have a duty to react after the bombing of a prison complex in Donetsk province killed prisoners of war.

“It was a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” Zelenskyy said in a video address Friday night. “There must be a clear legal recognition of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

Both sides argued that the prison attack was premeditated and intended to silence Ukrainian prisoners and destroy evidence, including of possible atrocities.

Russia claimed Ukraine’s military used US-supplied precision rocket launchers to attack the prison in Olenivka, a settlement controlled by the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic.

Separatist authorities and Russian officials said the attack killed 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war and wounded 75 others.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which organized evacuations of civilians in the war and worked to monitor the treatment of prisoners of war held by Russia and Ukraine, said it had requested access to the prison “to determine the health and state of all the people present. on the spot at the time of the attack.”

“Our priority right now is to make sure that the injured receive life-saving treatment and that the bodies of those who lost their lives are treated with dignity,” the Red Cross said in a statement.

Elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, Russian rockets hit a school building in Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, overnight and another attack occurred about an hour later, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said on Saturday. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The bus station in the city of Sloviansk was also attacked, according to Mayor Vadim Lyakh. Sloviansk is close to the front lines as Russian and separatist forces try to take full control of the Donetsk region, one of two eastern provinces that Russia has recognized as sovereign states.

In southern Ukraine, one person was killed and six injured in a shelling that hit a residential area in Mykolaiv, a major port city, the region’s administration said on Facebook on Saturday.

Friday’s attack on the prison reportedly killed Ukrainian soldiers who were captured in May after the fall of Mariupol, another port city where troops withstood a months-long Russian siege.

Moscow has opened an investigation into the attack and dispatched a team to the scene from the Russian Investigative Committee, the country’s top criminal investigation agency. The state agency RIA Novosti reported that fragments of rockets from the precision High Mobility Artillery Rocket System supplied by the United States were found at the site.

The Ukrainian military denied carrying out rocket or artillery attacks on Olenivka and accused the Russians of bombing the prison to cover up the alleged torture and execution of Ukrainians there.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said conflicting claims and limited information made it impossible to assign responsibility for the attack, but “available visual evidence appears to support the Ukrainian claim more than the Russian one.” “.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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