Ukraine Live Updates: President Zelensky urges those who stayed in Donbas to leave

Credit…Associated Press

Calling for an international investigation into what it called a “terrorist attack,” the Ukrainian government said on Saturday it was gathering evidence to show that Russia orchestrated the bombing of a Russian detention camp that killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners.

After a bombing late Thursday at a camp in Russian-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine, both sides exchanged accusations of being the source of the explosion that killed at least 50 prisoners, many considered national heroes after being captured during a steel mill siege. . in the seaside city of Mariupol.

Russian officials claimed that Ukraine attacked the prison itself to deter defectors, while Ukrainian authorities dismissed this version as absurd and said the death was a deliberate atrocity perpetrated by Russian forces from inside the prison, where survivors described deplorable conditions and ritual activities. . abuse.

Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak told The New York Times that an expert analysis of photographs and videos published by Russia showed that the center of the explosion was inside the building, and the exterior of the building was practically not damaged.

“Any military expert will say that the aftermath of an explosion is not like a missile or artillery strike,” he said.

The Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday confirmed its claim that Ukrainians killed their soldiers using US-made precision-guided missiles known as HIMARS to strike a prisoner of war camp in Russian-controlled territory in eastern Ukraine.

Competing claims could not be immediately verified independently of each other.

A senior US military official, referring to Russia’s claims of a HIMARS attack on the camp, said on Friday that Washington has not seen any evidence to support the claims.

mr. Podolyak said Ukrainian prisoners were transferred to the barracks where the explosion took place just days before the incident, and said it was suspicious that not a single Russian soldier or worker in the prison had been hurt.

He accused Russia of moving debris from other locations where Ukrainians hit targets with HIMARS to a POW camp before the explosion.

“This, as well as the speed and organization of Russian propaganda, indicates that the attack was planned,” he said. “The purpose of this heinous attack was to cover up the war crimes previously committed by Russia against prisoners of war, to discredit the armed forces of Ukraine, to disrupt the supply of Western weapons and to create tension in Ukrainian society.”

He also linked it to an international agreement to start shipments of grain from Ukrainian ports, saying it sent a clear signal that Russia’s assurances that the cargo could safely move out could not be trusted.

Tatyana Katrichenko, a Ukrainian human rights activist whose organization has been in contact with detainees at the camp, said they can only provide limited information about what they have learned to ensure the safety of those held there.

She said one Ukrainian prisoner called his wife on Thursday evening and said he heard the explosion around 11:00 pm.

“Not shelling, but just an explosion. Kravchenko said, adding that she had a recording of the conversation. “He also said that two of his friends were taken out of the prison where he is being held earlier on the same day that the explosion took place.”

According to her, one of his friends was injured in the explosion, another died. According to Ms. Kravchenko, soldiers held in other parts of the camp also passed on similar stories to their families.

She said that witnesses from the camp did not identify the barracks where the explosion took place, suggesting that it was part of the complex not being used to house prisoners.

The prisoner-of-war camp, she said, is divided into two large squares, in the middle of which there is a road. On one side there is a dining room, a church, an administrative building and barracks. On the other side there is an industrial area where the prisoners do not go.

Gene. Kirill Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, said on Friday that the construction of the barracks in the industrial zone had been completed two days earlier and that the prisoners had been moved there just before the explosion.