Dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed in a missile attack

  • Russia and Ukraine trade blame for prisoner deaths
  • Britain says Russia is deploying Wagner fighters more widely
  • Ukraine says the grain ships have loaded but no date yet for moving

ODESSA/KIEV, July 29 (Reuters) – Dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war appeared to have been killed in a missile attack on Friday, with Moscow and Kyiv accusing each other of carrying out the attack.

The incident overshadowed UN-backed efforts to restart grain shipments from Ukraine and ease a looming global hunger crisis stemming from the war, now in its sixth month.

Russia’s defense ministry said 40 prisoners were killed and 75 wounded in the attack on the prison in the front-line town of Olenivka, in a part of separatist-held Donetsk province.

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It accused Kyiv of targeting it with US-made HIMARS rockets, Russian news agencies reported.

Ukraine’s armed forces denied carrying out the attack and blamed Russian forces, saying Russian artillery had struck the prison.

“In this way, the Russian occupiers pursued their criminal goals: accusing Ukraine of committing ‘war crimes’, as well as hiding the torture of prisoners and executions,” said the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine

The Russian defense ministry said the prison housed Ukrainian prisoners of war and that eight prison staff were also injured. Russian-backed separatist leader Denis Pushilin said there were no foreigners among the 193 people detained there.

Video released by Russian war correspondent Andrei Rudenko showed Russian-backed military personnel sifting through the charred remains of what he said was the prison.

The shattered roof of the building hung and the charred remains of the bodies were visible.

Reuters could not independently confirm the scene or details of the attack.

Separately, Ukraine said at least five people had been killed and seven wounded in a Russian missile attack on the southeastern city of Mykolaiv, a river port on the Black Sea, as Russia fired across front lines at eastern and southern Ukraine.

A missile hit near a public transport stop, regional governor Vitaly Kim said on Telegram.

Russia, which denies targeting civilians, did not immediately comment on the situation and Reuters could not verify reports from the battlefield.

The government in Kyiv has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians during the invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes.

Russia has denied involvement in war crimes, accused Kyiv of staging them to smear its forces and said it is investigating war crimes by Ukraine.


Service members of pro-Russian troops drive an infantry fighting vehicle during the conflict between Ukraine and Russia in the city of Lysychansk in Luhansk region, Ukraine, July 4, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

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Russia and Ukraine agreed last week to unblock grain exports from Black Sea ports, which have been threatened by Russian attacks since it invaded Ukraine on February 24.

The agreement was the first diplomatic breakthrough in the conflict and wheat prices on offer in Asia fell this week on expectations of higher supplies.

But the fierce fighting makes it extremely risky.

Ukraine is ready to start shipping grain from two ports under the UN agreement, but no date has been set for the first shipment, Ukraine’s Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said. to journalists in the southern port of Odesa.

“In total, 17 ships were loaded before the war. Today we started loading another ship in Chornomorsk. We solved, in principle, almost all technical issues,” he said.

He said he hoped the first ships could leave the port before the end of the week, while Bridget Brink, the US ambassador to Ukraine, said she hoped an agreement would be reached later Friday to clear the way on the first shipment. Read more

U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said Thursday the world body expected the poorest countries to be given priority, citing Somalia, where nearly a quarter of a million people are starving. Read more

While the grain blockade in Ukraine, one of the world’s largest exporters, has contributed to rising food prices worldwide, Russian gas shortages have pushed up energy prices in Europe and led to fears of shortages during the winter.

Russian gas flows through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany remained at just 20% of capacity on Friday, after Russia halved flows on Wednesday citing maintenance work.

Moscow, which describes its invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation” carried out in self-defense, blames Western sanctions for low gas supplies. Ukraine and its allies say the Russian assault was completely unprovoked.


A British intelligence update said Russia has ordered mercenaries to hold sections of the front line in Ukraine, a sign it is running out of combat infantry as Kyiv steps up a counteroffensive in the south.

A greater reliance on fighters from the Russian private military company Wagner Group for front-line duties instead of their regular work in special operations would be another sign that the Russian military is under stress.

“This is a significant change from the group’s previous employment since 2015, when it typically carried out missions other than Russia’s regular open and large-scale military activity,” the ministry said.

Wagner and the Kremlin were not available for comment.

Officials in Kyiv said on Wednesday they had observed a “massive redeployment” of Russian forces in the south, where British defense officials believe Russia’s 49th Army, stationed on the west bank of the Dnipro River, is vulnerable.

Ukraine’s counterattacks in the south come as Russia fights for control of the entirety of the industrialized Donbas region in the east, which includes Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.

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Reuters bureau reports; Written by Stephen Coates and Philippa Fletcher; Edited by Lincoln Feast and Angus MacSwan

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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