KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian and Russian officials blamed each other on Saturday for the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in an attack on a prison in an area controlled by separatists. The International Red Cross has asked to visit the prison to ensure that the dozens of wounded POWs receive proper treatment, but said their request has so far not been granted.
Meanwhile, Russia continued to launch attacks on several Ukrainian towns, hitting a school and a bus station.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the ICRC and the The United Nations have a duty to respond to the bombing of the prison complex in Donetsk province in eastern Ukraine, and he again called for Russia to be declared a terrorist state.
“Condemnation at the level of political rhetoric is not enough for this mass murder,” he said.
Separatist authorities and Russian officials said Friday’s attack killed 53 Ukrainian POWs and injured 75 others. Russia’s Defense Ministry on Saturday released a list naming 48 Ukrainian fighters, aged 20 to 62, who died in the attack; it was unclear whether the ministry had revised its death toll.
Satellite photos taken before and after the attack show that a small square building in the middle of the Olenivka prison complex was demolished, its roof shattered.
Ukraine and Russia have alleged the prison attack was premeditated and intended to silence Ukrainian prisoners and destroy evidence.
The ICRC, which has organized civilian evacuations and worked to monitor the treatment of prisoners of war held by Russia and Ukraine, said it had requested access to the prison “to determine the state of health and the condition of all those present at the time of the attack”. .”
“Our priority right now is to ensure that the injured receive life-saving care and that the bodies of those who have lost their lives are treated with dignity,” the Red Cross said.
But the organization said on Saturday evening that his request for access to the prison had not yet been granted.
“Allowing ICRC access to prisoners of war is an obligation of parties to the conflict under the Geneva Conventions,” the ICRC said on Twitter.
Russia has claimed that the Ukrainian military used US-supplied precision rocket launchers to target the prison in Olenivka, a settlement controlled by the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic.
The Ukrainian military accused the Russians of bombing the prison to cover up allegations of torture and execution of Ukrainians.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said competing claims and limited information made it difficult to assign full responsibility for the attack, but “available visual evidence appears to further support the Ukrainian assertion than the Russian”.
Moscow opened an investigation into the attack and the UN said it was also ready to send investigators. Deputy UN spokesman Farhan Haq said “we stand ready to send a group of experts capable of carrying out an investigation, requiring the consent of the parties, and we fully support the initiatives” of the Cross- Red.
Elsewhere in eastern Ukraine, Russian rockets hit a school in Kharkiv and a bus station in Sloviansk, among other strikes. In southern Ukraine, one person was reportedly killed and six injured in shelling in a residential area of Mykolaiv, local officials said.
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 Iryna Vereshchuk warned on Saturday that parts of Donetsk controlled by Ukraine will face serious heating problems this winter due to the destruction of gas pipes. She called for a mandatory evacuation of residents before the cold sets in.
The prison attack reportedly killed Ukrainian soldiers captured in May after the fall of Mariupol, a Black Sea port city where troops and the Azov National Guard regiment withstood a months-long Russian siege.
On Saturday, an association of parents of black-clad Azov fighters demonstrated outside St. Sophia’s Cathedral in Kyiv and demanded that Russia be designated a terrorist state for violating Geneva Convention rules regarding the treatment of prisoners of war.
A woman wearing dark glasses and giving only her first name, Iryna, was waiting to hear from her 23-year-old son.
“I don’t know how he is, where he is, whether he’s alive or not. I don’t know. It’s horror, only horror,” she said.
On the energy front, Russia’s state-owned natural gas company said on Saturday it had halted shipments to Latvia due to contract breaches. Gas giant Gazprom said the shipments were halted because Latvia breached “gas extraction conditions”.
The statement likely referred to a refusal to meet Russia’s demand for gas payments in rubles rather than other currencies. Gazprom previously suspended gas shipments to other EU countries, including the Netherlands, Poland and Bulgaria, because they would not pay in roubles.
EU countries have scrambled to secure alternative energy sources, fearing Russia could further cut gas supplies as winter approaches.
Follow AP’s coverage of the Russian-Ukrainian War at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine