US says Russia trying to fabricate evidence in prisoner-of-war deaths

The US claims Russia is working to fabricate evidence of last week’s deadly attack on a prison housing prisoners of war in a separatist region of eastern Ukraine.

S intelligence officials have found that Russia is trying to plant false evidence to make it appear that Ukrainian forces were responsible for the July 29 attack on Olenivka prison that left 53 dead and dozens others injured, it said a US official familiar with the intelligence agency’s findings told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Russia has claimed Ukraine’s military used US-supplied rocket launchers to attack the prison in Olenivka, a settlement controlled by the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic.


Russia and Ukraine have accused each other of shelling a prison in a separatist region in eastern Ukraine, an attack that killed dozens of Ukrainian military prisoners captured after the fall of Mariupol (AP).

The Ukrainian military denied carrying out any rocket or artillery strikes in Olenivka.

In a statement on Wednesday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry intelligence agency claimed to have evidence that Kremlin-backed separatists had colluded with the Russian FSB, the main successor agency to the KGB, and the Wagner mercenary group to mine the barracks before launching “a combustible substance was used, which led to the rapid spread of fire in the room”.

The official, who was not authorized to speak publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the top-secret intelligence agencies – which were recently downgraded – showed Russian officials may even be using medium-range artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) munitions as evidence The attack used the systems that the US had made available to Ukraine.

Russia is expected to take the action as it expects independent investigators and journalists to eventually gain access to Olenivka, the official added.


Investigators examine bodies of Ukrainian military prisoners in prison in Olenivka (AP)

Ukraine has effectively deployed HIMARS launchers, which fire medium-range missiles and can be moved quickly before Russia can target them with return fire, and has been seeking additional launchers from the United States.

Earlier on Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was appointing a fact-finding mission in response to requests from Russia and Ukraine to investigate the killings at the prison.

Mr Guterres told reporters he was not authorized to conduct criminal investigations but was authorized to conduct investigative missions. He added that the terms of reference for a mission to Ukraine are being prepared and will be sent to the governments of Ukraine and Russia for approval.

Ukrainian prisoners of war in Donetsk prison included troops captured during the fall of Mariupol.


A soldier stands guard near a wall of the prison in Olenivka (AP)

They spent months together with civilians in the huge Azovstal Steelworks in the southern port city. Their resistance during a relentless Russian bombardment became a symbol of Ukrainian defiance of Russia’s aggression.

More than 2,400 soldiers from the Azov regiment of the National Guard of Ukraine and other military units gave up fighting and surrendered in May on orders from the Ukrainian military.

Dozens of Ukrainian soldiers were taken to prisons in Russian-controlled areas. Some have returned to Ukraine as part of the prisoner swap with Russia, while other families have no idea if their loved ones are still alive or if they will ever return home. US says Russia trying to fabricate evidence in prisoner-of-war deaths

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