US says Russia trying to fabricate evidence in prisoner-of-war deaths

4 August 2022, 04:54

In this photo taken from video a view of destroyed barrack at a prison in Olenivka, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces, eastern Ukraine, Friday, July 29, 2022
Russia Ukraine. Picture: PA

The Ukrainians killed at the Donetsk prison included troops captured during the fall of Mariupol.

The US claims Russia is working to fabricate evidence concerning last week’s deadly strike on a prison housing prisoners of war in a separatist region of eastern Ukraine.

US intelligence officials have determined Russia is looking to plant false evidence to make it appear that Ukrainian forces were responsible for the July 29 attack on Olenivka Prison that left 53 dead and wounded dozens more, a US official familiar with the intelligence finding told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Russia has claimed that Ukraine’s military used US-supplied rocket launchers to strike the prison in Olenivka, a settlement controlled by the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic.

In this photo taken from video a view of a destroyed barrack at a prison in Olenivka, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces, eastern Ukraine, Friday, July 29, 2022
Russia and Ukraine accused each other of shelling a prison in a separatist region of eastern Ukraine, an attack that killed dozens of Ukrainian military prisoners who were captured after the fall of Mariupol (AP)

The Ukrainian military denied making any rocket or artillery strikes in Olenivka.

The intelligence arm of the Ukrainian defence ministry claimed in a statement on Wednesday to have evidence that Kremlin-backed separatists colluded with the Russian FSB, the KGB’s main successor agency, and mercenary group Wagner to mine the barrack before “using a flammable substance, which led to the rapid spread of fire in the room”.

The official, who was not authorised to comment publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the classified intelligence — which was recently downgraded — shows that Russian officials might even plant ammunition from medium-ranged High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) as evidence the systems provided by the US to Ukraine were used in the attack.

Russia is expected to take the action as it anticipates independent investigators and journalists eventually getting access to Olenivka, the official added.

Investigators examine bodies of Ukrainian military prisoners at a prison in Olenivka, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces, eastern Ukraine, Friday, July 29, 2022
Investigators examine bodies of Ukrainian military prisoners at the prison in Olenivka (AP)

Ukraine has effectively used HIMARS launchers, which fire medium-range rockets and can be quickly moved before Russia can target them with return fire, and have been seeking more launchers from the United States.

Earlier on Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he is appointing a fact-finding mission in response to requests from Russia and Ukraine to investigate the killings at the prison.

Mr Guterres told reporters he does not have authority to conduct criminal investigations but does have authority to conduct fact-finding missions. He added that the terms of reference for a mission to Ukraine are currently being prepared and will be sent to the governments of Ukraine and Russia for approval.

The Ukrainian POWs at the Donetsk prison included troops captured during the fall of Mariupol.

A soldier stand guard next to a wall of a prison in Olenivka, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces, eastern Ukraine, Friday, July 29, 2022
A soldier stands guard next to a wall of the prison in Olenivka (AP)

They spent months holed up with civilians at the giant Azovstal steel mill in the southern port city. Their resistance during a relentless Russian bombardment became a symbol of Ukrainian defiance against Russia’s aggression.

More than 2,400 soldiers from the Azov Regiment of the Ukrainian national guard and other military units gave up their fight and surrendered under orders from Ukraine’s military in May.

Scores of Ukrainian soldiers have been taken to prisons in Russian-controlled areas. Some have returned to Ukraine as part of prisoner exchanges with Russia, but other families have no idea whether their loved ones are still alive or if they will ever come home.

By Press Association

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