More than 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war have been killed in a bombing that President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned Friday as a “terrorist attack organized by Russian inhuman monsters.”
“This is another confirmation that Russia is a terrorist state,” the president wrote, confirming that “more than 50 captured Ukrainian defenders were cynically killed” in Olenivka.
The targeted prison, in an area controlled by the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, had housed nearly 200 troops captured in Mariupol, the scene of many of the war’s worst atrocities.
Images Friday showed the smoking remains of a cavernous burned-out building — with charred bodies lying on metal beds and military stretchers.
“Russia has committed another petrifying war crime by shelling a correctional facility in the occupied Olenivka where it held Ukrainian POWs,” Ukraine Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted.
“I call on all partners to strongly condemn this brutal violation of international humanitarian law and recognize Russia a terrorist state.”
An adviser to Zelensky decried the shelling as “a deliberate, cynical, calculated mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners.”
The separatists in control of the group confirmed at least 53 people were killed and at least 75 wounded.
However, it blamed Kyiv, as did Russia, whose defense ministry called it an “egregious provocation” designed to stop soldiers from surrendering and exposing Ukraine’s own military crimes.
Russian state media also claimed that there had been fragments of High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) rockets that the US gave Ukraine.
“The political leadership of Ukraine decided to use US-producer multiple-launch rocket systems HIMARS to carry out a strike here to veil the crimes that the Ukrainian captives started talking about,” the separatists’ spokesman, Eduard Basturin, told local media.
Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak ripped those claims as “a classic, cynical and elaborate false flag operation” by the Kremlin.
“The purpose — to discredit in front of our partners and disrupt weapons supply,” he said of the “deliberate, cynical, calculated mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners.”
Ukraine’s military leaders shared a similar message in a shared statement later Friday.
“The committed explosion is a cynical terrorist act of the Russian Federation, a military provocation and a classic false flag operation, the purpose of which is to cover up war crimes, discredit the Armed Forces of Ukraine, disrupt the supply of Western weapons and increase social tension in Ukrainian society,” they said.
Ukrainian officials alleged that the feared Russian mercenary Wagner Group carried out the assault.
On the same day, UK intelligence noted how the private military company had been unusually active on the frontlines, acting as regular troops rather than its usual work in special missions.
“This is a significant change from the previous employment of the group since 2015,” the UK report noted, saying it confirmed Wagner’s close ties with the Kremlin and also appeared to prove Russia was suffering a “shortage of combat infantry” in its invasion.
With Post wires
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