Zelenskyy calls POW bombing ‘deliberate Russian war crime’

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of a “war crime” for bombing a jail containing Ukrainian prisoners of war in the eastern Donetsk region.

“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.”

Zelenskyy also called on international organizations and the U.S. to take action and investigate Russia. “There should be a clear legal recognition of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism,” he said.

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 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 U.K. ambassador to Ukraine Melinda Simmons also called for an investigation.

 “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.