Russia-Ukraine war: row over who killed 40 PoWs in prison attack; Russia facing ‘major shortage’ of infantry, says UK – live | Ukraine

Ukraine denies attack on prison that reportedly killed 40 POW

Ukraine’s military has just denied carrying out the attack on a prison in separatist-held territory that Russia’s defence ministry said killed 40 Ukrainian prisoners of war on Friday, and blamed it on Russian forces.

The general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement:

The armed forces of the Russian Federation carried out targeted artillery shelling of a correctional institution in the settlement of Olenivka, Donetsk oblast, where Ukrainian prisoners were also held.

In this way, the Russian occupiers pursued their criminal goals – to accuse Ukraine of committing ‘war crimes’, as well as to hide the torture of prisoners and executions […].

Russia has denied involvement in war crimes in what it calls its “special military operation” to protect Russian speakers and root out dangerous nationalists.

Ukraine says Moscow is waging an unprovoked war of conquest.

Key events

Germany will deliver 16 BIBER bridge-layer tanks to Ukrainian forces, the German defence ministry said on Friday.

The ministry said in a statement:

The BIBER will enable Ukrainian troops to cross waters or obstacles in combat.

The delivery of the first six systems will take place this year, starting in autumn. Ten more systems will follow next year.

The German government has faced accusations of flip-flopping over pledges of military support to Ukraine, after chancellor Olaf Scholz was forced to U-turn over an initial refusal to send tanks and heavy weaponry to Ukraine.

The Russian embassy in Lebanon has no information about a Syrian ship docked in Lebanon or its cargo, it said on Friday, after the Ukrainian embassy claimed the ship was carrying flour stolen by Russia.

“The Embassy of the Russian Federation to the Lebanese republic has no information regarding the Syrian vessel or a cargo brought to Lebanon by a private company,” the embassy told Reuters in an emailed statement.

Concerns have been growing across the Middle East and north Africa for months over soaring prices for wheat triggered by the war in Ukraine.

Russia and Ukraine supply a quarter of the world’s wheat exports, while Egypt is the world’s biggest importer of wheat.

Ukraine ready to resume shipping grain from Black Sea ports, president says

The Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said on Friday his country is ready to resume grain shipments from Black sea ports and is awaiting a signal from the United Nations and Turkey to start the shipments.

Zelenskiy’s office said the president had visited the Black Sea port of Chornomorsk, which has been blockaded by Russia, to see preparations for the shipments under a UN-brokered agreement signed in Turkey last week.

The office quoted him as saying:

Our side is fully prepared. We sent all the signals to our partners – the UN and Turkey, and our military guarantees the security situation.

The infrastructure minister is in direct contact with the Turkish side and the UN. We are waiting for a signal from them that we can start.

Ukraine’s president Zelenskiy attends a joint news conference with Lithuanian president Nauseda in Kyivon 28 July, 2022.
Ukraine’s president Zelenskiy attends a joint news conference with Lithuanian president Nauseda in Kyiv
on 28 July, 2022.
Photograph: Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Reuters

Exporters raised concerns this week over whether insurance companies are going to be willing to insure grain vessels navigating mined waters in Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, while buyers are hesitant to place new orders given the risk of Russian attacks.

Belarus recalled its ambassador to the UK on Friday in response to what it called “hostile and unfriendly” actions by London.

In a statement, Belarus’ foreign ministry said Britain had adopted policies that were “systematically aimed at causing maximum damage to Belarusian citizens and legal entities,” citing sanctions on its companies, a ban on the national airline, Belavia, and restrictions on Belarusian state media, Reuters reports.

A barrage of 25 missiles targeting locations in the Chernihiv region, outside Kyiv and around the city of Zhytomyr on Thursday was fired by Russian forces from neighbouring Belarus, a close ally of the Kremlin.

Belarus also allowed Russia to use its territory to launch a major prong of its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

Relations between Belarus and the west have deteriorated sharply since the country’s leader, Alexander Lukashenko, was accused of sending refugees to the EU’s external border in an attempt to punish the bloc for criticism of Lukashenko’s domestic crackdown on dissent after a controversial 2020 presidential election.

Ukraine denies attack on prison that reportedly killed 40 POW

Ukraine’s military has just denied carrying out the attack on a prison in separatist-held territory that Russia’s defence ministry said killed 40 Ukrainian prisoners of war on Friday, and blamed it on Russian forces.

The general staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement:

The armed forces of the Russian Federation carried out targeted artillery shelling of a correctional institution in the settlement of Olenivka, Donetsk oblast, where Ukrainian prisoners were also held.

In this way, the Russian occupiers pursued their criminal goals – to accuse Ukraine of committing ‘war crimes’, as well as to hide the torture of prisoners and executions […].

Russia has denied involvement in war crimes in what it calls its “special military operation” to protect Russian speakers and root out dangerous nationalists.

Ukraine says Moscow is waging an unprovoked war of conquest.

Summary of the day so far …

  • Russia and authorities in occupied in Donetsk have claimed that more than 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war have been killed and at least 75 injured after Ukrainian forces shelled a prison where they were being held. The claims have not been independently verified, and there has been no comment from Ukrainian authorities.
  • The prison in Yelenovka was housing Ukrainian service personnel who had been held there since the fall of Mariupol. Russian authroities have suggested they were targeted to either prevent them testifying against Kyiv, or to deter other Ukrainian armed forces from surrender.
  • At least five people have been killed and seven injured in a strike on a bus stop in the city of Mykolaiv, according to regional governor Vitaliy Kim. Graphic images from the scene show the street littered with bodies.
  • Ukraine has stepped up its campaign to retake Russian-controlled regions in the south by trying to bomb and isolate Russian troops in hard-to-resupply areas. Ukrainian planes struck five Russian strongholds around Kherson and another nearby city on Thursday, its military claimed. Kyiv said it had also retaken some small settlements on the Kherson region’s northern edge.
  • The Ukrainian counteroffensive in the country’s south is “gathering momentum”, according to British defence and intelligence officials. Ukraine has virtually cut off the Russian-occupied southern city of Kherson, leaving thousands of Russian troops stationed near the Dnieper River “highly vulnerable” and isolated, the UK ministry of defence said.
  • Sergei Lavrov said on Friday that Moscow would soon propose a date for a call with his US counterpart, secretary of state, Antony Blinken. It is expected the call would be about a potential prisoner exchange.
  • The UK defence minister, Ben Wallace, has said that Russian forces in Ukraine are in “a very difficult spot”, and said that Vladimir Putin’s strategy is akin to putting his forces through a meat grinder. In his opinion, he said Russia was “certainly not able to occupy the country. They may be able to carry on killing indiscriminately and destroying as they go, but that is not a victory”.
  • Russian private military firm Wagner has likely been allocated responsibility for specific sectors of the front line in eastern Ukraine, possibly as Russia is facing a major shortage of combat infantry, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update this morning.
  • Residents of Russian-occupied areas in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region have been urged to evacuate. Ukraine’s deputy prime minister Iryna Vereshchuk said people risked being cut off from “power, water, food and medical supplies, heating and communication” if they stayed in the area.

Reuters is reporting, via Interfax, that the self-declared leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Denis Pushilin, has said that the prison where Russia claims at least 40 Ukrainian prisoners of war have been killed, housed 193 people, and that there were no foreigners among the detainees.

RIA Novosty reports Pushilin claimed the Kyiv authorities ordered the shelling out of a desire to destroy prisoners who began to testify, including “Azov militants”.

There has been no official comment from Ukrainian authorities on the reports of the attack on the prison, which has not been independently verified.

The Telegram account of the headquarters of the territorial defence of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic has raised the claimed death toll at Yelenovka prison to 53.

In a statement it said:

In Yelenovka, 53 people died and another 75 were injured. The criminal Kyiv regime purposefully destroys Ukrainian militants who have surrendered in order to cover up the traces of war crimes committed against the civilian population of Donbas, and thereby force the rest to continue hostilities, and not surrender to the group of troops of the Donetsk People’s Republic.

Russia, Syria and North Korea are the only UN member states that recognise the Donetsk People’s Republic as a legitimate authority. The claims of the attack on the prison have not been verified, although the Guardian has seen video footage which purports to show the aftermath.

Reuters reports that the Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said on Friday that Moscow would soon propose a date for a call with the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken. It is expected the call would be about a potential prisoner exchange.

Ukraine’s governor of Luhansk has issued an update on what he says is the situation in the region, which is almost entirely occupied by pro-Russian forces. Serhai Haidai posted to Telegram to say:

There are no Russian breakthroughs on the front line – all enemy attempts were repulsed by the Armed Forces. The bodies of the dead lie on the streets of occupied cities for months, the rubble of broken buildings, where human bodies also remain, are not being sorted out.

The occupiers are unable to provide the population with water, gas and electricity, despite numerous promises. Young people who express opinions disagreeing with the enemy are taken to the basement, where they are “brainwashed”.

The claims have not been independently verified.

The Russian ministry of defence has said that what it claims is a Ukrainian attack on a prison was “a bloody provocation” and an attempt to intimidate Ukrainian armed forces against surrendering. It says:

Currently, a large number of Ukrainian servicemen voluntarily lay down their arms, knowing about the humane attitude towards prisoners of war on the Russian side. This blatant provocation was committed to intimidate Ukrainian servicemen and prevent their surrender.

It gave casualty figures as “40 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed and 75 wounded. In addition, eight employees of the isolation ward received injuries of varying severity.”

There has been no comment on the alleged incident yet from Ukrainian authorities. The claims have not been independently verified.

Russia and DPR claim 40 POWs killed by Ukrainian strike on prison barracks

Russia’s defence ministry has said Ukraine struck a prison in separatist-held territory with US-made Himars rockets on Friday, killing 40 Ukrainian prisoners of war and leaving 75 wounded.

The RIA Novosti news agency quotes Daniil Bezsonov, a minister in the self-proclaimed and unrecognised Donetsk People’s Republic in occupied Ukraine saying:

Direct hit in the barracks with prisoners. The result as of now: 40 dead, 130 wounded. While the rubble is being sorted out. The numbers may increase. The military-political leadership of Ukraine, apparently, decided to get rid of unnecessary ballast.

RIA identifies it as the penal colony No. 120 in the village of Yelenovka, where prisoners from the Azov battalion were taken after the siege of Mariupol.

The claims have not been independently verified.

At least 5 dead and 7 wounded in strike on Mykolaiv – governor

At least five people have been killed and seven wounded in an attack that has taken place near a public transport stop in Mykolaiv, according to a video posted by regional governor Vitaliy Kim.

In the video, Kim gives the death toll as four, but he has subsequently posted to Telegram to say “at the moment, it is known about seven wounded and five dead already.”

The claims have not been independently verified.

The UK defence minister, Ben Wallace, has said that Russian forces in Ukraine are in “a very difficult spot”, and said that Vladimir Putin’s strategy is akin to putting his forces through a meat grinder.

He told listeners of the BBC’s Today programme in the UK that “by any benchmark, Russia is in a position where it hasn’t achieved its major objectives. It has taken huge numbers of losses and casualties”.

In his opinion, he said Russia was “certainly not able to occupy the country. They may be able to carry on killing indiscriminately and destroying as they go, but that is not a victory”.

“Putin hasn’t changed from his desire to occupy the whole of Ukraine, take Kyiv and Odesa,” he said, adding: “But his army has been effectively crippled by huge amounts of losses. Over 25,000 dead. Maybe twice as many injured.”

He likened the current tactics to the first world war, saying: “When I talk about meat grinder, which is what they’re doing, is that they are resorting to a sort of Soviet tactic of just a massive Russian meat grinder moving very slowly metres, not miles, a day, in some parts.

“And in the top of the meat grinder they’re shoving in, and this is the cruelty of that system, they are recruiting from the poorest districts in Russia, and the ethnic minorities, and they are using mercenaries, shoving these people in with very little regard to the outcome, grinding forward.”

He said that longer-range western weapons were “now having a material effect”, and the Russians “are operating their army at roughly about 40-to-50% combat effective.”

Wallace said the Ukrainian attack on bridges, which appears to have had an impact on the ability to resupply troops in Kherson north of the River Dnieper, had put them “in a very difficult spot” and left the Russians “in a defensive position” in the south.

Here are some of the latest images to be sent to us over the news wires from Ukraine.

A residential house burns after a Russian military strike in the town of Bakhmut.
A residential house burns after a Russian military strike in the town of Bakhmut. Photograph: Donetsk Regional Military Administration/Reuters
Medic volunteer Nataliia Voronkova, top right, gives a medical tactical training session to soldiers in a bomb shelter as air raid sirens go off, in Dobropillya, eastern Ukraine.
Medic volunteer Nataliia Voronkova, top right, gives a medical tactical training session to soldiers in a bomb shelter as air raid sirens go off, in Dobropillya, eastern Ukraine. Photograph: Nariman El-Mofty/AP
A Ukrainian farmer stops for a cigarette, with an abandoned Russian APC nearby, on a field near the village of Mala Rogan, Kharkiv region.
A Ukrainian farmer stops for a cigarette, with an abandoned Russian APC nearby, on a field near the village of Mala Rogan, Kharkiv region. Photograph: Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

Oleksandr Syenkevych, the mayor of Mykolaiv, has just posted to Telegram to say that there has been “the arrival of cluster shells in one of Mykolaiv’s districts”. “There are victims. Ambulances have already arrived,” he added.

He urged residents to stay in shelters. The claims have not been independently verified.

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