Russia’s Defence Ministry has accused Ukraine of deliberately targeting a prison in Donbass where it knew dozens of its own POWs were being held.
The Ukrainian authorities were aware that their soldiers, who surrendered to Russian forces at the Azovstal steel plant, were being held at the prison in the village of Yelenovka, as Kiev itself insisted on them being placed there, Russian Deputy Defense Minister Aleksandr Fomin said on Wednesday.
The shelling of Correctional colony No.120 in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in late July killed 50 inmates and left 73 others wounded. The facility held members of the infamous Azov neo-nazi battalion, who were captured in May after being holed up for weeks at the Azovstal steelworks during the Russian siege of the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.
“On May 20, 2022, the surrendered servicemen of the Azov nationalist battalion were taken to the pre-trial detention center in the village of Yelenovka. The Ukrainian side insisted on this particular place for their detention,”Fomin said during a briefing for foreign military attachés in Moscow.
Kiev’s attack on the prison was deliberate, with “the Ukrainian leadership giving the order to carry out the missile strike because the Azov fighters started giving testimonies exposing their crimes, including those perpetrated against peaceful civilians,” he insisted.
Another reason for Ukraine hitting Yelenovka was to scare its own troops on the battlefield and “deter them from surrendering,” the Russian defense official said. Many Ukrainian soldiers have been recently laying down their arms, he added.
Aleksandr Fomin denied Ukraine’s “groundless” claims that Moscow struck the prison itself to pin the blame on Kiev, saying all the evidence shows that the missiles came from the north-western direction, where Kiev’s forces were located.
Last week, RIA Novosti news agency cited an unnamed high-ranking Pentagon official, who suggested that if Ukraine did shell the prison in Yelenovka, then it did so unintentionally.
The Russian deputy defense minister insisted that those words were nothing but “a clumsy attempt to justify the provocation by the Kiev regime.”
The attack on the detention facility was carried out with HIMARS multiple rocket launchers, supplied to Ukraine by the US, and the Americans have been claiming that those are “high-precision systems, which hit the targets they were meant to hit,” he said.
Also, in planning its strikes, the Ukrainian military actively relies on space and air reconnaissance data provided by the US and its allies, Fomin added.
In a bid to curb further speculation, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that it had officially invited experts from the UN and the International Red Cross Committee to carry out an impartial investigation into the incident in Yelenovka.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.