Calls grow for investigation of POW bombing in Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of a “war crime” for bombing a jail containing Ukrainian prisoners of war in the eastern Donetsk region as international condemnation of the shelling increased.
Zelenskyy called on international organizations and the U.S. to take action and investigate Russia. Officials around Europe joined the call for a probe of the incident.
“There should be a clear legal recognition of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Zelenskyy said. The Ukrainian president specifically called on the UN and the Red Cross, saying those bodies “must react” to the bombing.
“It was a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” Zelenskyy said in a video-message Friday night.
More than 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war died in the shelling in the town of Olenivka, in territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014, according to authorities in the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Ukrainian authorities accused Russia of bombing the building to hide tortures happening in the prison.
“I call on all partners to strongly condemn this brutal violation of international humanitarian law and recognize Russia a terrorist state,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
Russia’s defense minister argued, without providing evidence, that Kyiv was responsible for the “provocation.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had requested access to the site to “determine the health and condition of all the people present on the site at the time of the attack.”
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell condemned “in the strongest possible terms” the shelling and said the EU would support a probe into the bombing. “The European Union actively supports all measures to ensure accountability for human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law committed during the Russian aggression in Ukraine,” Borrell said in a statement Friday, adding that “the perpetrators … will be held accountable.”
The French government and the U.K.’s ambassador to Ukraine also called for an international investigation on Saturday.
“France expresses its horror at reports of killings and torture of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the Olenivka detention center, ” France’s Foreign Ministry said in an e-mailed statement. “Should this information be confirmed, the perpetrators and all those responsible for such crimes, which blatantly violate international humanitarian law, will have to be held accountable.”
The incident “needs investigating,” said U.K. envoy to Ukraine Melinda Simmons. “It looks like part of an increasingly worrying pattern of the worst kind of human-rights abuses, and poss war crimes, being committed in the occupied East of Ukraine with impunity,” Simmons said in a tweet.
Zelenskyy urged Ukrainians to leave the Donetsk region. “There is a government decision on mandatory evacuation from Donetsk region, everything is being organized,”he said.