Ukrainian shelling killed own prisoners of war, say Donetsk separatists

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Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine claim that at least 40 Ukrainian prisoners of war captured during the fighting for Mariupol have been killed by Ukrainian shelling.

Daniil Bezsonov, a spokesman for the Russia-backed separatists in the Donetsk region, said that at least 40 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed and 130 were injured on Friday when Ukrainian shelling hit a prison in the town of Olenivka.

There was no immediate comment from the Ukrainian authorities to the report.

The Ukrainian troops were taken prisoner after the fierce fighting for Ukraine’s Azov Sea port of Mariupol, where they holed up at the giant Azovstal steel mill for months.

The Azov Regiment and other Ukrainian units defended the steel mill for nearly three months, clinging to its underground maze of tunnels. They surrendered in May under relentless Russian attacks from the ground, sea and air.

Scores of Ukrainian soldiers were then taken to prisons in Russian-controlled areas such as the Donetsk region, a breakaway area in eastern Ukraine which is run by Russia-backed separatist authorities.

Moscow has seized on Azov Regiment’s far-right connections as proof of its claims that Ukraine was ruled by Nazis and needed to be “denazified” — one of the main pretexts for the 24 February invasion.

Both Russian and DNR authorities said that some 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers captured in Mariupol would have to “face a tribunal,” with many fearing that this would serve as an excuse to execute some of them.