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UN says it’s ready to send investigators to site where Ukrainian POWS were killed

United Nations in Geneva (John Samuel/WikiCommons)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United Nations says it is ready to investigate the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) in an attack in territory controlled by Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said, if both parties agreed, the UN was ready to send experts to the frontline town of Olenivka where the incident occurred on July 29.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on July 29 that it was seeking access to the site and had offered to help evacuate the wounded.

Dozens of Ukrainian POWs were apparently killed in the incident at a prison complex in Olenivka.

Russia claimed Ukraine’s military used U.S.-supplied precision rocket launchers to target the prison in Olenivka.

The Ukrainian military, however, denied making any rocket or artillery strikes in Olenivka. It accused the Russians of shelling the prison to cover up the alleged torture and execution of Ukrainians there.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the United Nations and the ICRC had a duty to respond after the attack in Olenivka.

“It was a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” Zelenskiy said in a video address late on July 30. “There should be a clear legal recognition of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed his condolences over the deaths in a phone call on July 29 with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, according to a State Department statement on July 30.

The United States is committed to “hold Russia accountable for atrocities committed by its forces against the people of Ukraine,” Blinken told Kuleba.

The Russian Defense Ministry on July 30 published a list of Ukrainian prisoners of war — including 48 names — who it said were killed and wounded in what it said was a missile strike by the Ukrainian military.

A charity linked to Ukraine’s Azov Regiment said on Telegram that it was not immediately able to confirm or deny the authenticity of the Russian list of people killed and wounded.

Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians since its invasion began on February 24 and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Russia denies targeting civilians and has denied allegations of war crimes.