Russia says bombings killed dozens of Ukrainian POWs

Kyiv, Ukraine –

Russian-backed separatists said Friday that a U.S.-supplied Ukrainian missile attack on a separatist eastern region hit a prison and killed 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war who were captured in Mariupol. There was no immediate confirmation of the attack from Ukraine.

The HIMARS multiple rocket launcher attack on Olenivka prison in the Russian-controlled Donetsk region also injured 75 Ukrainian prisoners of war, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lt. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said. Speaking before the last Separatist update, he put the death toll at 40.

Konashenkov described the attack as a “bloody provocation” intended to dissuade Ukrainian soldiers from surrendering. He said eight prison guards were also injured in the shelling.

The attack could not be independently verified and officials in Ukraine have yet to comment on the reports. Ukrainian authorities in the Donetsk region said Russia has continued to shell civilian targets in Ukrainian-controlled areas.

“The fighting in the region has intensified day by day and civilians must evacuate while it is still possible,” Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said. “The Russian army does not care about civilian casualties. They are laying waste to towns and villages in the region.”

Ukrainian troops in Mariupol were taken prisoner after fierce fighting for the Ukrainian seaport of Azov, where they had taken refuge in the giant Azovstal steelworks. Their resistance has become a symbol of Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion that began on February 24.

The Azov Regiment and other Ukrainian units defended the steelworks for nearly three months, clinging to its underground labyrinth of tunnels. More than 2,400 surrendered in May under relentless Russian attacks from land, sea and air.

Dozens of Ukrainian soldiers were taken to prisons in Russian-controlled areas such as the Donetsk region, a breakaway area in eastern Ukraine that is run by Russian-backed separatist authorities. Some have returned to Ukraine as part of prisoner swaps with Russia, but the families of others have no idea if their loved ones are alive or will ever return home.

In other developments:

— Ukrainian officials said Russian forces shelled the country’s second largest city, Kharkiv.

The city’s mayor, Ihor Terekhov, said a central part of the northeastern city was targeted, including a two-story building and a higher education institution. Terekhov said the strike occurred shortly after 4 am on Friday.

“The State Emergency Service is already working, they are separating the rubble, looking for people under it,” Terekhov said in a Telegram update.

— Ukraine’s presidential office said at least 13 civilians were killed and 36 others wounded in Russian shelling in the past 24 hours.

In the southern city of Mykolaiv, at least four people were killed and seven others wounded when Russian shelling hit a bus stop.

“The Russians have changed their tactics due to the successes of the Ukrainian forces in the south… They are shooting near a bus stop,” Mykolaiv Governor Vitaliy Kim said.

The Russian shelling also hit a humanitarian aid distribution facility, where three people were injured, officials said.

Ukrainian officials also said at least four civilians were killed and five others wounded in the eastern city of Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, which is the focus of the Russian offensive in the Donbas. More than 30 residential buildings and a kindergarten were damaged.

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