Russia, Ukraine trade blame for dozens of deaths in Donetsk prison destruction


Dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war appeared to have been killed when a prison building was destroyed in a missile strike or explosion, with Moscow and Kyiv accusing each other of responsibility.

The deaths, some of which were confirmed by journalists at the prison where the men were held in eastern Donetsk province, overshadowed a UN brokered deal to restart shipping grain from Ukraine and ease a worldwide food crisis.

The deal was discussed by the top diplomats of the United States and Russia on Friday in their first phone call since before Russia’s invasion of its neighbour began on Feb. 24.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that Washington was not living up to promises regarding the exemption of food from sanctions, the foreign ministry said. For his part Blinken said he told Lavrov the world expected Russia to fulfil its commitments under the grains agreement between Ukraine and Russia. Forty prisoners were killed and 75 wounded at the prison in the frontline town of Olenivka held by Moscow-backed separatists, Russia’s defence ministry said.

A spokesman for the separatists put the death toll at 53 and accused Kyiv of targeting the prison with US-made HIMARS rockets. Ukraine’s armed forces denied responsibility, saying Russian artillery had targeted the prison to hide the mistreatment of those held there. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Russia had committed a war crime and called for international condemnation.

TV showed the remains of a cavernous burned-out building filled with metal beds, some with charred bodies lying on them while other bodies were lined up on military stretchers or on the ground outside.—PR


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