Ukrainian and Russian officials on Saturday blamed each other for the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in an attack on a prison in the separatist-controlled region. The International Red Cross called for a visit to the prison to ensure that wounded POWs receive proper treatment, but said its request had not yet been accepted.
Meanwhile, Russia launched attacks on several cities in Ukraine, targeting a school and a bus station.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that the ICRC and the United Nations have a duty to respond to the shelling of a prison complex in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province, and called for Russia to be declared a terrorist state again.
“Condemnation at the level of political rhetoric is not enough for this mass murder,” he said.
Separatist officials and Russian officials said 53 Ukrainian POWs were killed on Friday and 75 others were wounded in the attack. Russia’s defense ministry on Saturday released a list of 48 Ukrainian fighters aged between 20 and 62 killed in the attack; It was not clear whether the ministry had revised its number of fatalities.
Satellite photos taken before and after the attack show that a small, square building in the middle of the Olenivka prison complex was demolished, with its roof splintering.
Ukraine and Russia both alleged that the attack on the prison was premeditated and aimed at silencing Ukrainian prisoners and destroying evidence.
The ICRC, which has organized civilian evacuations and tasked with overseeing the treatment of POWs held by Russia and Ukraine, said it requested access to the prison “for the health and condition of all those present at the site at the time of the attack.” to determine”. ,
“Our priority right now is to ensure that the injured receive life-saving treatment and that the bodies of those who lost their lives are disposed of in a respectful manner,” the Red Cross said.
But the organization said late Saturday that its request to reach the jail has not been accepted yet.
“Granting the ICRC access to POWs is an obligation of the Parties to the Conflict under the Geneva Conventions,” the ICRC said on Twitter.
Russia claimed that Ukraine’s military used precision rocket launchers supplied by the US to target the Olenivka prison, a settlement controlled by the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic.
The Ukrainian military accused the Russians of shelling the prison to hide the alleged torture and executions of Ukrainians.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said competing claims and limited information prevented full responsibility for the attack but “the available visual evidence appears to support the Ukrainian claim more than the Russian.”
Moscow has launched an investigation into the attack and the United Nations said it was ready to send investigators. “We are prepared to send a group of experts capable of conducting investigations that require the consent of the parties, and we fully support the initiative of the Red Cross,” said UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq.
Elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, Russian rockets struck a school in Kharkiv and a bus station in Slovak, among other attacks. Local officials said one person was killed and six wounded in shelling in a residential area of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine.
Russian and separatist forces are trying to take full control of the Donetsk region, one of the two eastern provinces that Russia has recognized as sovereign states.
Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshchuk warned on Saturday that Ukrainian-controlled parts of Donetsk will face serious heating problems due to the gas main’s destruction this winter. She called on residents to compulsorily evacuate before the onset of cold weather.
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The prison attack reportedly killed Ukrainian soldiers captured in May following the fall of Mariupol, a Black Sea port city where the Azov regiment of soldiers and the National Guard famously fought against a month-long Russian siege.
On Saturday, a union of relatives of Azov fighters dressed in black demonstrated outside Kyiv’s St. Sophia’s Cathedral and called for Russia to be designated a terrorist state for violating the Geneva Convention’s rules for the treatment of prisoners of war.
A woman wearing dark glasses who only gave her maiden name Irina was waiting for news of her 23-year-old son.
“I don’t know how he is, where he is, whether he is alive or not. I don’t know. It’s scary, only scary,” she said.
On the energy front, Russia’s state-owned Natural Gas Corporation said on Saturday it has halted shipments to Latvia due to breach of contract. Gas giant Gazprom said the shipment was halted because Latvia had broken “the gas clearance conditions”.
The statement probably referred to Russia’s refusal to meet gas payment demands in rubles instead of other currencies. Gazprom has previously suspended gas shipments to other EU countries, including the Netherlands, Poland and Bulgaria, because they will not pay in rubles.
EU nations are scrambling to secure other energy sources, fearing Russia will cut more gas supplies as winter approaches.