President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Friday the shelling of a prison in the separatist-controlled east holding Ukrainian servicemen was a “deliberate Russian war crime” that had claimed more than 50 lives.
“Today, I received information about the attack by the occupiers on Olenivka (the prison's location), in the Donetsk region. It is a deliberate Russian war crime, a deliberate mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war. More than 50 dead,” he said in his daily address.
Russia and Moscow-backed separatists had earlier on Friday accused Kyiv's forces of striking the jail, saying dozens of people died and scores were wounded.
Russian television showed what appeared to be destroyed barracks and tangled metal beds. It also showed blurred images of what looked like human bodies.
Moscow sent a team to the site from Russia’s Investigative Committee, the country’s main criminal inquiry agency, to look in to the attack.
Russia claimed that Ukraine’s military used US-supplied Himars rocket launchers to attack the prison.
The Ukrainian military denied making any rocket or artillery strikes in Olenivka, and it accused the Russians of shelling the prison to cover up the alleged torture and killing of Ukrainians there.
The Russian Ministry of Defence said the Ukrainian prisoners of war included members of the Azov Battalion, who defended the Azovstal plant in Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.
Russia describes the former paramilitary unit, which has links to far-right groups, as a neo-Nazi organisation.