Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross have a duty to react after shelling of a prison complex in Donetsk province killed the POWs.
“It was a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” Mr Zelenskiy said in a video address late on Friday. “There should be a clear legal recognition of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.”
Both sides alleged the attack on the prison was premeditated and intended to silence the Ukrainian prisoners and to destroy evidence, including of possible atrocities.
Russia claimed Ukraine’s military used US-supplied precision rocket launchers to target the prison in Olenivka, a settlement controlled by the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic.
Separatist authorities and Russian officials said the attack killed 53 Ukrainian POWs and wounded another 75.
The International Committee of the Red Cross, which has organized civilian evacuations in the war and worked to monitor the treatment of POWs held by Russia and Ukraine, said it has requested access to the prison “to determine the health and condition of all the people present on site at the time of the attack”.
“Our priority right now is making sure that the wounded receive life-saving treatment and that the bodies of those who lost their lives are dealt with in a dignified manner,” the Red Cross said.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military said on Saturday it had killed scores of Russian soldiers and destroyed two ammunition dumps in fighting in the Kherson region, the focus of Kyiv’s counter-offensive in the south and a key link in Moscow’s supply lines.
Rail traffic to Kherson over the Dnipro River had been cut, the military’s southern command said, potentially further isolating Russian forces west of the river from supplies in occupied Crimea and the east.
Ukraine has used western-supplied long-range missile systems to badly damage three bridges across the Dnipro in recent weeks, cutting off Kherson city and — in the assessment of British defense officials — leaving Russia’s 49th Army stationed on the west bank of the river highly vulnerable.
“As a result of fire establishing control over the main transport links in occupied territory, it has been established that traffic over the rail bridge crossing the Dnipro is not possible,” Ukraine’s southern command said in a statement.
It said more than 100 Russian soldiers and seven tanks had been destroyed in fighting on Friday in the Kherson region, the first major town captured by the Russians following their February 24th invasion.
The first deputy head of the Kherson regional council, Yuri Sobolevsky, told residents to stay away from Russian ammunition dumps.
“The Ukrainian army is pouring it on against the Russians and this is only the beginning,” he wrote on Telegram.
The pro-Ukrainian governor of Kherson region, Dmytro Butriy, said Berislav district was particularly hard hit. Berislav is across the river northwest of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant.
“In some villages, not a single home has been left intact, all infrastructure has been destroyed, people are living in cellars,” he wrote on the Telegram app.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the reports and officials from the Russian-appointed administration running the Kherson region earlier this week rejected western and Ukrainian assessments of the situation.
Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities and brutality against civilians since its invasion and said it has identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Russia denies targeting civilians.
A UN-brokered deal to restart shipping grain from Ukraine and ease a worldwide food crisis was discussed by the top diplomats of the US and Russia on Friday in their first phone call since before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told US secretary of state Antony Blinken that Washington was not living up to promises regarding the exemption of food from sanctions, the foreign ministry said.
A Russian foreign ministry account of the phone call cited Mr Lavrov as telling Mr Blinken that Russia would achieve all the goals of its “special military operation”, and said western arms supplies to Ukraine would only drag out the conflict.
Mr Blinken warned Mr Lavrov about any Russian territorial claims during its war in Ukraine.
“The world will not recognize annexations. We will impose additional significant costs on Russia if it moves forward with its plans,” he said. — Agencies