The military of Russia and pro-Moscow separatists claimed on Friday that Ukrainian forces shelled a prison in the eastern region of Ukraine, killing at least 40 Ukrainian prisoners of war.
Local media quoted Russian Defence Ministry stating through a statement as, “Ukrainian security forces fired HIMARS rockets at a pre-trial detention centre near Olenivka tonight.”
It said Ukrainian prisoners of war, including members of the Azov Regiment who surrendered in May after defending the port city of Mariupol from within the besieged Azovstal steel plant- were held at the Olenivka prison.
As per the statement released by Russia’s Defense Ministry, “40 Ukrainian POWs were killed and 84 others were injured.
Authorities in the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic placed the death toll at 53.
Ukraine’s military denied Russia’s claim later Friday, accusing the Russian forces of directing artillery fire at the Olenivka prison “to hide the torture of prisoners and executions committed on the orders of the occupying administration.”
The alleged attack using U.S.-supplied long-range missile systems comes amid Ukraine’s active counteroffensive to retake two occupied southern regions.
Denis Pushilin, head of the Donetsk People’s Republic, claimed without evidence that the attack was a deliberate attempt to keep the Ukrainian soldiers from “testifying” for Donetsk’s “war crimes trial” that Kyiv decries as a sham.
Ukrainian soldiers captured during five months of fighting are being held in Russian-controlled territories, with independent media reporting that some of them had been transferred to Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison.