Ukrainian soldiers ride a tank on a road in the Donetsk region near the front line between Russian and Ukrainian forces on July 20, 2022.
Anatoly Stepanov | AFP | Getty Images
Russia on Sunday invited experts from the United Nations and the Red Cross to investigate the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners being held by Moscow-backed separatists, while Ukraine’s president ordered the evacuation of residents of Donetsk’s eastern region.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said hundreds of thousands of people were still facing fierce fighting in the Donbass region, which includes Donetsk and Luhansk province.
“Many are refusing to go, but it still needs to be done,” Zelenskyy said in a televised address late Saturday. “The more people leave the Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will be able to kill.”
Ukraine and Russia exchanged allegations early Friday over a missile attack or explosion that appeared to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the frontline town of Olenivka in eastern Donetsk.
Russia invited experts from the UN and the Red Cross to investigate the deaths “in the interests of an objective investigation,” the defense ministry said on Sunday.
The ministry had released a list of 50 Ukrainian POWs killed and 73 wounded in an alleged Ukrainian military strike using a US-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).
Ukrainian forces denied responsibility, saying Russian artillery attacked the prison to hide abuses there. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Friday Russia had committed a war crime and called for an international conviction.
Portal journalists confirmed some of the prison deaths, but could not immediately verify the different versions of events.
The UN had said it was ready to send experts to investigate if both parties agreed. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was seeking access and had offered to help evacuate the wounded.
Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities against civilians and identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Russia denies targeting civilians and war crimes in the invasion, which it describes as a “special operation.”
Ukraine’s military said Saturday that more than 100 Russian soldiers were killed and seven tanks destroyed in the south on Friday, including the Kherson region, which is the focus of Kyiv’s counter-offensive in that part of the country and a key link in Moscow’s supply lines represents.
Rail services to Kherson across the Dnipro River have been disrupted, the military’s Southern Command said, potentially further isolating Russian forces west of the river from supplies in occupied Crimea and to the east.
South of the town of Bakhmut, which has cited Russia as a key target in Donetsk, the Ukrainian military said Russian forces “partially succeeded” in gaining control of the settlement of Semyhirya, storming it from three directions.
Defense and intelligence officials from Britain, which has been one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies since Moscow invaded its neighbor on February 24, portrayed Russian forces as struggling to keep the momentum going.
Ukraine has used western-supplied long-range missile systems in recent weeks to severely damage three bridges across the Dnieper, cut off the city of Kherson and – according to British defense officials – leave the Russian 49th Army on the west bank of the river highly vulnerable.
Portal could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
Officials in the Russian-appointed administration that ran the Kherson region earlier this week dismissed Western and Ukrainian assessments of the situation.
On Friday, the British Ministry described the Russian government as “growing in desperation” after losing tens of thousands of soldiers in the war. The head of Britain’s foreign intelligence agency MI6, Richard Moore, added on Twitter that Russia was “running out of steam”.