Russia invites U.N., Red Cross experts to probe Ukraine jail deaths

Russia on Sunday invited United Nations and Red Cross experts to probe the deaths of dozens of Ukrainian prisoners held by Moscow-backed separatists, while Ukraine’s president ordered the evacuation of residents in the eastern region of Donetsk.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said hundreds of thousands of people were still exposed to fierce fighting in the Donbas region, which contains Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.

“Many refuse to leave but it still needs to be done,” Zelenskiy said in a televised address late on Saturday. “The more people leave the Donetsk region now, the fewer people the Russian army will have time to kill.”

Ukraine and Russia have traded accusations over a missile strike or explosion early on Friday that appeared to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war in the front-line town of Olenivka in eastern Donetsk.

Russia invited experts from the U.N. and Red Cross to probe the deaths “in the interests of conducting an objective investigation”, the defence ministry said on Sunday.

The ministry had published a list of 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war killed and 73 wounded in what it said was a Ukrainian military strike with a U.S.-made High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS).

Ukraine’s armed forces denied responsibility, saying Russian artillery had targeted the prison to hide mistreatment there. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Friday Russia had committed a war crime and called for international condemnation.

Reuters journalists confirmed some of the deaths at the prison, but could not immediately verify the differing versions of events.

The U.N. had said it was prepared to send experts to investigate if it obtained consent from both parties. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was seeking access and had offered to help evacuate the wounded.

Ukraine has accused Russia of atrocities against civilians and identified more than 10,000 possible war crimes. Russia denies targeting civilians and war crimes in the invasion it calls a “special operation”.

Source: Tap News Agency