Russia says 40 POWs are killed in Ukrainian shelling of prison

Russia says 40 POWs are killed in Ukrainian shelling of prison in separatist region but Kyiv says invaders blew up the building to hide evidence of torture

  • Prisoners of war held in the Olenivka prison in Donetsk have been killed
  • Russia claims Ukraine struck the site overnight with US-made HIMARS rockets
  • Ukraine said Russia destroyed site to hide evidence of torture and executions

At least forty Ukrainian prisoners of war have been killed in a Russian detention camp, with the warring countries accusing the other of carrying out the deadly attack.

Russian forces accused Kyiv of targeting the Olenivka prison in Donetsk overnight using US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems in a strike which also injured 75.

But Ukraine said Putin’s men carried out ‘targeted artillery shelling’ in a bid to both accuse Ukraine of war crimes and hide any evidence of their torture and mass executions in the prison.

The Kremlin’s defence ministry said this morning that eight employees at the detention centre were also injured.

Denis Pushilin, leader of the Donetsk separatists, put the death toll at 47 people. Territorial defence forces of the separatist statelet said that 53 people died.

Ukrainian servicemen fire an M777 howitzer in Kharkiv Region in northeastern Ukraine today

A residential house burns after a Russian military strike, as the attacks on Ukraine continue in the town of Bakhmut

Firefighters extinguish a fire in a shelled house in Bakhmut as Russia and Ukraine continue to trade blows

A fisherman watches smoke rise after Russian forces launched a missile attack on a military unit in the Vyshhorod district on the outskirts of Kyiv

A total of 193 people were held in the jail at the time of the strike, Pushilin said in comments broadcast on Russian state television.

The Russian defence ministry said the Ukrainian prisoners of war included members of the Azov battalion, who defended the Azovstal plant in Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol.

Moscow claimed that the ‘bloody provocation of the Kyiv regime’ was designed to discourage Ukrainian troops from laying down their arms and surrendering.

‘This egregious provocation was carried out to intimidate Ukrainian servicemen,’ the defence ministry said.

Pushilin, the Donetsk leader, claimed Kyiv forces struck the jail because Ukrainian prisoners of war had begun to testify.

After a weeks-long siege and resistance at the Azovstal steel plant, the last stronghold of Mariupol, around 2,500 Ukrainian fighters surrendered in May.

The Ukrainian prisoners of war included members of the Azov battalion, who defended the Azovstal plant (pictured in May)

Ukrainian authorities in the Donetsk region also said today that Russia has pressed on with the shelling of civilian targets in Ukrainian-held areas

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky visits a sea port in Odesa before restarting grain export

Meanwhile, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement: ‘The armed forces of the Russian Federation carried out targeted artillery shelling of a correctional institution in the settlement of Olenivka, Donetsk oblast, where Ukrainian prisoners were also held.

‘In this way, the Russian occupiers pursued their criminal goals – to accuse Ukraine of committing ‘war crimes’, as well as to hide the torture of prisoners and executions…’

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky, said the Russian allegations were ‘a classic, cynical and elaborate false flag operation’ intended to discredit Ukrainian authorities. 

Ukrainian authorities in the Donetsk region also said today that Russia has pressed on with the shelling of civilian targets in Ukrainian-held areas.

‘The fighting in the region has been intensifying by the day, and civilians must evacuate while it’s still possible,’ said Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.

Ukraine said at least five people had been killed and seven wounded in a Russian missile strike on the southeastern city of Mykolaiv

A residential building damaged in an attack by Russian forces on the city of Toretsk in the Donetsk Oblast

A view of the damage at a football stadium after a shelling in Bakhmut

‘The Russian army doesn’t worry about civilian casualties. They are pummelling cities and villages in the region.’

Scores of Ukrainian soldiers were taken to prisons in Russian-controlled areas such as the Donetsk region, a breakaway area in eastern Ukraine which is run by Russian-backed separatist authorities.

Some have returned to Ukraine as part of prisoner exchanges with Russia, but families of others have no idea whether their loved ones are alive or if they will ever come home.

Separately Ukraine said at least five people had been killed and seven wounded in a Russian missile strike on the southeastern city of Mykolaiv, a river port just off the Black Sea, as Russia fired across frontlines in eastern and southern Ukraine.

A missile struck near a public transport stop, regional governor Vitaly Kim said on Telegram.

Russia, which denies targeting civilians, did not immediately comment on the situation and Reuters could not verify the battlefield reports.

An intelligence update from Britain said Russia has ordered mercenaries to hold sections of the frontline in Ukraine

Officials in Kyiv said on Wednesday they had observed a ‘massive redeployment’ of Russian forces to the south

An intelligence update from Britain said Russia has ordered mercenaries to hold sections of the frontline in Ukraine – a sign it is running short of combat infantry as Kyiv steps up a counter-offensive in the south.

Greater reliance on fighters from the Russian private military company Wagner Group for frontline duties rather than their usual work in special operations would be another sign that Russia’s military is under stress six months into its war in Ukraine.

But the British defence ministry said in the update that Wagner mercenaries were unlikely to make up for the loss of regular infantry units or alter the trajectory of Russia’s invasion.

‘This is a significant change from the previous employment of the group since 2015, when it typically undertook missions distinct from overt, large-scale regular Russian military activity,’ the ministry said.

Wagner and the Kremlin were not immediately available for comment.

Officials in Kyiv said on Wednesday they had observed a ‘massive redeployment’ of Russian forces to the south where British defence officials believe Russia’s 49th Army, stationed on the west bank of the Dnipro River, is vulnerable.

Ukraine’s counter-attacks in the south come as Russia battles for control of the entirety of the industrialised Donbas region in the east, comprising the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.

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