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No green light for Red Cross to visit bombed Ukraine prison

A destroyed barrack at a prison in Olenivka, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces, in eastern Ukraine, July 29, 2022. (screenshot, AP Photo)
A destroyed barrack at a prison in Olenivka, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces, in eastern Ukraine, July 29, 2022. (screenshot, AP Photo)

GENEVA, Switzerland — The International Committee of the Red Cross says it has yet to receive approval to enter the Olenivka prison where dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war died in a bombing strike.

“As of yet, we have received no official confirmation granting us access to visit the site or the prisoners of war affected by the attack, and, to date, our offer of material assistance has not been accepted,” the ICRC says in a statement.

The Russian defense ministry said late Saturday that it had invited the ICRC and the United Nations to visit the area.

“The Russian Federation, in the interest of an objective inquiry into the strike on the detention center at Elenovka (Olenivka in Ukrainian), which resulted in the death of a large number of Ukrainian prisoners of war, has officially invited experts from the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross,” the ministry said.

Kyiv and Moscow have traded blame over the strikes on the jail in Kremlin-controlled Olenivka in eastern Ukraine.

The ICRC asked for access to the site and “other places where the wounded and dead might have been transferred” as soon as it was informed of the bombing, for which both Russia and Ukraine deny responsibility.

The ICRC also offered medical equipment and help to evacuate the wounded.

“We are ready to deploy to Olenivka,” says the ICRC, which has teams in the area, having been present in Donetsk since 2014 and the start of hostilities between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists.

“It is imperative that the ICRC be granted immediate access” to the prison and victims to carry out its humanitarian mission, it adds.

The Russian army said 50 people were killed and 73 wounded, while pro-Russian separatist authorities in the Donetsk region put the death toll at 53.

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky called the bombing that left “more than 50 dead” a “deliberate Russian war crime.”

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