Live Updates: Russia’s War in Ukraine

Buses carrying members of the Ukrainian forces arrive under pro-Russian army escort at a detention center in Olenivka settlement in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on May 17.
Buses carrying Ukrainian forces servicemen arrive under pro-Russian army escort at a detention center in Olenivka settlement in Donetsk region, Ukraine on May 17. (Alexander Ermoshenko/Reuters)

Russian and Ukrainian authorities on Friday swapped accusations over an alleged strike against a separatist-held prison in eastern Ukraine that Russia says has resulted in the deaths of dozens of prisoners.

CNN could not immediately verify the allegations. Brief video clips released on Russian networks and by social media in Donetsk show the massive destruction of a building and several bodies, but the location cannot be independently verified.

Olenivka prison near Donetsk was used to house many Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered at the Azovstal factory in Mariupol several months ago.

What Russia says: In a statement, the Russian Defense Ministry said “the Kyiv regime deliberately carried out a bloody provocation”.

“The remand center in the settlement area of ​​Yelenovka (Olenivka), which contains Ukrainian military prisoners of war, including militants of the Azov formation, was hit by a missile attack from the launch rocket system American multiple HIMARS.”

The Russian Defense Ministry reiterated claims made earlier by authorities of the self-declared People’s Republic of Donetsk, a breakaway region in eastern Ukraine.

“It was a direct hit on the barracks of the prisoners. The toll so far: 40 dead, 130 injured. They are still clearing the rubble. The numbers may increase,” said the deputy minister of the Information from the DPR, Daniil Beznosov, on his Telegram channel.

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed that “this blatant provocation was intended to intimidate the Ukrainian servicemen and prevent them from being taken prisoner”.

Later Friday, DPR deputy militia chief Eduard Basurin said the death toll had risen to 53, with at least 71 injured.

“At the moment it is known for certain that 53 are dead and 71 injured. The numbers may change,” Basurin said.

What Ukraine says: The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine accused Russian forces of carrying out “a targeted artillery bombardment on a correctional facility in the settlement of Olenivka, Donetsk Oblast, where Ukrainian prisoners were also detained”.

“The Russian occupiers pursued their criminal goals – accusing Ukraine of committing ‘war crimes’, as well as hiding the torture of prisoners and executions,” the General Staff said.

“The alleged shelling of civilian infrastructure and the population by the Ukrainian armed forces is pure lies and provocation, the responsibility for which lies with Russia.”

The General Staff statement added: “According to the Commander of the Missile and Artillery Forces of the Land Forces Command of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not launch missile strikes and artillery in the area of ​​the Olenivka settlement.”

“The missile troops and artillery of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, thanks to high-precision weapons received from partner countries, deliver extremely accurate strikes only on Russian military objects.”

The General Staff said the armed forces “have never and do not conduct bombings of civilian infrastructure, especially places where fellow combatants are likely to be held as prisoners of war.”

“Russia committed another petrifying war crime by bombing a correctional facility in the occupied Olenivka region where it was holding Ukrainian prisoners of war. I call on all partners to strongly condemn this brutal violation of international humanitarian law and to recognize Russia as a terrorist state,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro said. Kuleba tweeted.

A group working on behalf of Ukrainian soldiers held as prisoners of war said on Friday that “it is with deep sadness that we are forced to confirm the information about the attack on the penal colony of Olenivka, where detained soldiers of the ‘Azov’ regiment”. held as a prisoner of war.”

On his Telegram channelthe group – known as the Angels of Azov – said: “We are finding out the names of the dead and injured through our own channels. The International Committee of the Red Cross has also been on the spot.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross, whose representatives had earlier visited the prisoners, made no comment.

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