Red Cross seeks access to site of deadly attack on Ukrainian prisoners of war | Russo-Ukrainian War

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was seeking access to the site of a deadly attack on a facility holding Ukrainian prisoners of war and offered to help evacuate the wounded.

Dozens of Ukrainian prisoners were killed on Friday when a prison building was destroyed in what appeared to be a missile attack or explosion, with Moscow and Kyiv accusing each other of responsibility.

“The ICRC offered its support for the evacuation of the wounded and donated medical supplies, protective equipment and forensic equipment. Our current priority is to ensure that the injured receive life-saving treatment and that the bodies of those who lost their lives are treated with dignity,” he said in a statement.

“We have requested access to determine the health and condition of all those present at the scene at the time of the attack. We are also in contact with the families, taking into account their requests and inquiries.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said 40 prisoners were killed and 75 injured in Thursday’s attack on the prison in the frontline town of Olenivka, in a separatist-backed part of Donetsk province. by Russia.

The Ukrainian military denied carrying out the attack, saying its forces “did not launch missiles or artillery strikes in the area of ​​the Olenivka settlement”.

The army accused Russian forces of having “a targeted artillery bombardment” on the detention center, saying it was used to “accuse Ukraine of committing ‘war crimes’, as well as to hide torture of prisoners and executions”.

A spokesman for the separatists put the death toll at 53 and accused Kyiv of targeting the prison with US-made HIMARS rockets.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the prison housed Ukrainian prisoners of war and eight prison staff were also injured. Russian-backed separatist leader Denis Pushilin reportedly said there were no foreigners among the 193 detainees.

Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities and brutalities against civilians since its February 24 invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Russia has denied targeting civilians.

‘War crime’

In a statement, the Ukrainian military said the attack was “not coordinated with the leadership” of the Russian Defense Ministry and was used to cover up “embezzlement” allocated to Ukrainian prisoners of war.

“Russia has committed another petrifying war crime by bombing a penal facility in ‘occupied Olenivka where it was holding Ukrainian prisoners of war,'” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

In May, Ukrainian forces ended a week-long siege of Azovstal, with the surrender of around 2,500 fighters after ending their initial resistance.

A spokesman for the Moscow-backed separatists told reporters that Ukraine attacked the prison after prisoners of war began talking about crimes committed by the Ukrainian military.

“The political leaders of Ukraine have decided to use the multiple launch rocket systems of the American producer HIMARS to carry out a strike here in order to cover up the crimes that the Ukrainian captives have started to talk about,” the spokesperson said. Eduard Basturin.

Al Jazeera could not independently verify the claims of different accounts.

Fighting in southern Ukraine

Russian attacks elsewhere in Ukraine killed five people and injured seven others on Friday in the heavily shelled city of Mykolaiv, near the country’s southern frontline, the regional governor said.

“They fired at another area near a public transit stop,” Governor Vitaliy Kim said in a statement on social media.

Mykolaiv, near the Black Sea, saw around half of its estimated pre-war population of almost 500,000 leave and the city was bombarded daily for weeks.

It is the largest urban center under Ukrainian control near the front lines in the Kherson region, where the Kyiv army launched a counter-offensive to regain control of the economically and strategically important coastal territory.

Ukraine’s presidency said on Friday that Russian attacks on the city the day before hit a humanitarian aid distribution point and injured three people.

In the eastern Donetsk region, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko also said on Friday that Moscow forces had killed eight people and injured 19 others in attacks the day before.

Grain exports

The prison attack comes as Ukraine seeks to revive crucial grain exports as part of a Turkish and United Nations-brokered plan to lift Russia’s naval blockade of the Black Sea.

The Ukrainian Presidency has released footage of President Volodymyr Zelenskyy standing in front of the Turkish ship Polarnet in the port of Chornomorsk during a visit to inspect grain loading.

“The first ship, the first ship has been loaded since the beginning of the war,” Zelenskyy said in a statement.

Zelenskyy said Kyiv was “waiting for a signal” from Ankara and the UN to begin exports which it is hoped will help ease a global food crisis that has seen prices soar.