Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called Friday’s prison bombing that killed “more than 50 people” a “premeditated Russian war crime” after Moscow accused Ukrainian forces of responsibility.
The strike at the Olenivka prison, where Ukrainian prisoners of war were being held, on separatist territory in eastern Ukraine, is “a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder,” the leader says of the Ukrainian state. This “attack by the occupiers” claimed “more than 50 lives”.
Earlier, the Russian army had reported 40 dead and 75 wounded, with pro-Russian separatist authorities in the Donetsk region citing as many as 53 dead.
According to Ukraine, the attack “was carried out by mercenaries from the Wagner division”
At first it was Moscow that had involved Kyiv. The Russian investigative committee accused the Ukrainian armed forces of “firing American projectiles from the Himar system at the prison where members of the Azov battalion are being held”.
The Azov regiment had distinguished itself in the defense of Mariupol (southeast). After long weeks of siege and resistance at the Azovstal Steel Plant, some 2,500 Ukrainian fighters surrendered to the Russian army in May. Moscow had announced that they would be detained in Olenivka.
“This outrageous provocation aims to frighten Ukrainian soldiers and dissuade them from surrendering,” the Russian Defense Ministry said. But Ukraine then quickly denied attacking civilian infrastructure or prisoners of war, affirming that the army “fully complies with the principles and standards of international humanitarian law.”
The Ukrainian General Staff was of the opinion that the aim was to “accuse war crimes” against Ukraine and to “camouflage” the torture of prisoners and executions “carried out” there. According to Ukrainian intelligence, the attack was “carried out by mercenaries from the Wagner Division” and “not coordinated with the management” of the Russian Defense Ministry, according to the Ukrainian staff. For its part, Russian public television broadcast images presented as images of charred barracks and destroyed metal bedsteads. It showed blurry images of what appeared to be human bodies.
For its part, the European Union “strongly condemned the atrocities committed by the Russian armed forces and their auxiliaries” in a press release by its head of diplomacy, which addressed both the bombing of the prison and allegations of torture against a Ukrainian prisoner. . “These inhuman and barbaric acts constitute serious violations of the Geneva Conventions and its Additional Protocol and amount to war crimes,” added Josep Borrell.