Home News Ukrainian soldiers killed in attack on Donetsk prison holding POWs, Russia says

Ukrainian soldiers killed in attack on Donetsk prison holding POWs, Russia says

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Ukraine and Russia traded accusations Friday over the shelling of a prison in the eastern Donetsk region that allegedly killed and wounded Ukrainian prisoners of war, including those captured after the fall of the port city of Mariupol in May.

A spokesman for the Russian-backed breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said a Ukrainian strike using U.S.-supplied HIMARS — High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems — hit a prison in the town of Olenivka, killing at least 53 captive Ukrainian troops and wounding about 75.

Ukrainian authorities, however, denied any involvement and in turn accused Russian forces of carrying out the attack, which they described as a war crime.

In posts on Telegram, DPR spokesman Daniil Bezsonov referred to the casualties as “prisoners of Azovstal” — the steel plant in Mariupol that finally fell to Russian forces after a protracted siege. Unverified video shared on Telegram showed charred human remains in the burned-out shell of what was purported to be the prison.

Russia’s Defense Ministry framed the incident as “a bloody provocation” intended to discourage Ukrainian soldiers from surrendering.

The Ukrainian military, however, accused Russian forces of carrying out “a 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 which they carried out there,” it said in a statement.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, writing on Twitter, accused Russia of committing a war crime and called for condemnation from the international community.

“I call on all partners to strongly condemn this brutal violation of international humanitarian law and recognize Russia [as] a terrorist state,” he said.

None of the claims could be independently verified.

The soldiers who finally surrendered in Mariupol after spending months holed up in the steel works included fighters from Ukraine’s Azov Regiment. Russia’s Defense Ministry claimed that more than 2,400 Ukrainian troops surrendered at the plant, a figure that Ukrainian officials said was exaggerated.

On Friday, Andrii Biletsky, described as the “founder of Azov,” vowed revenge for the prison shelling.

“I, on behalf of the Azov units, announce a hunt for everyone involved in the mass murder,” he said on his Telegram channel. “Every rank-and-file performer and every organizer, regardless of position and place of stay, will bear responsibility. No matter where you hide, you will be found and exterminated.”

The Azov Regiment is among Ukraine’s most battle-hardened military units but has attracted controversy for its links to far-right nationalist ideology. Russian President Vladimir Putin has framed his invasion of Ukraine as an attempt to “denazify” the country, partly referring to the Azov forces.

Robyn Dixon, Mary Ilyushina and David L. Stern contributed to this report.

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