As international outrage grows, Ukraine on Saturday called on global organizations including the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross to quickly investigate an explosion that tore through a Russian prison camp. dozens of Ukrainian soldiers, leaving only charred bodies and twisted metal vaults. .
The Ukrainians acted quickly and forcefully on Friday to counter official Russian information that the Ukrainians used US-made precision weapons to attack prisons and kill their own warplanes. them to prevent anyone who might consider surrendering to Russian forces.
Ukrainian officials say they will kill their own soldiers – many of whom fought to protect the Azovstal Iron and Steel works in Mariupol and are considered by many to be national heroes – is absurd.
“It was a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address.
The Red Cross oversaw the surrender of some 2,500 Ukrainian soldiers when they laid down their arms at the steel mill in May. Many were taken to the facility where the explosion occurred: Correctional District 120, a prison camp near the town of Olenivka in the Russian-occupied Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
Mr. Zelensky said that the Red Cross, along with the United Nations, had played a role “as guarantors of the life and health of our soldiers,” and now they must act. “They have to protect the lives of hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” he said.
The Red Cross said in a statement that it had requested access to the site of the attack and contact with the families of soldiers detained there.
“Our priority right now is to ensure that the injured receive life-saving treatment and that the bodies of those killed are properly disposed of,” the agency said.
Josep Borrell Fontelles, the European Union’s top foreign policy official, said in a statement that Russia’s “illegal and unjust war of aggression” causes “more terrible atrocities” every day.
He said both the prison camp attack and a recent graphic video showing a Russian soldier castrating a Ukrainian prisoner of war were evidence of Russia’s violation of international law.
“These barbaric, inhuman acts represent a serious violation of the Geneva Conventions and their complementary protocol, and lead to war crimes,” he said.
Kaja Kallas, Estonia’s prime minister, said Russia was responsible for the “mass murder” of prisoners at the camp, an act she said were “the darkest chapters in history”.
“Not being exonerated for war crimes is like not being able to have a relationship back with a war criminal,” she said in a statement.
Criticism of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine points to a statement issued by the Russian Embassy in the UK on Twitter as evidence of how Moscow views prisoners of war.
“The Azov warriors deserved to be executed, but death was not by shooting but by hanging, because they were not real soldiers. They deserve a humiliating death,” the embassy said in a Twitter post, linking to a propaganda video filmed in Mariupol.
Twitter has since labeled the statement a violation of the platform’s rules on hateful conduct. The outlet wrote that it left the post as it was because “it may be in the public interest for the Tweet to remain accessible”.
The current commander of the Azov Regiment, Major Mykyta Nadtochii, said the group considers the attack on the prison camp “an act of public execution” and that Russia is “used to the fact that no one is held accountable for them”. even when openly violating the laws, customs and rules of war.”
Ukraine’s military commander-in-chief, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said that although the killing of Ukrainian prisoners sparked “rage”, the military would continue to abide by “the rules of international humanitarian law”.
However, he also calls for revenge.
“We will do everything we can – and cannot – to punish those who have committed crimes against our brothers and sisters, as well as civilians.” he said in a statement. “These crimes have no statute of limitations. Beware, enemies, you will have nowhere to hide on this Earth.”