Both Russia and Ukraine have opened criminal investigations after accusing each other of bombing a prison in the breakaway eastern region of Donetsk on Friday, killing dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war.
Separatist authorities and Russian officials said at least 53 people were killed and 75 injured in Olenivka, a settlement controlled by the Donetsk People’s Republic. The prisoners were captured after the fall of Mariupol in May.
The Ukrainian military has denied any responsibility for the rocket or artillery fire at Olenivka and claimed that Russian forces bombed the prison to accuse Ukraine of war crimes to cover up the torture and executions that took place there. occurred.
Meanwhile, Russia claimed Ukraine used US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers in the attack on the prison, located in the Russian-held Donetsk region. Neither country’s claims could be independently verified.
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►Ukraine has recorded 5,600 children forcibly deported to Russia. Ukrainian authorities are working to return these children to their homes, and Deputy Interior Minister Kateryna Pavlichenko said the numbers are expected to increase.
►Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the first grain exports since the start of the war could begin in the coming days. Several loaded ships have been unable to sail since the Russian attacks began in February. Zelenskyy said the country was “fully prepared” and awaiting signals from Turkey and the United Nations before exporting.
►The mayor of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, said a central part of the northeastern city was hit early Friday, including a two-story building and a higher education institution.
Russian agent accused of using US groups to spread propaganda
The Justice Department announced on Friday that a Russian agent was accused of using political groups in the United States to promote pro-Russian propaganda.
Aleksandr Viktorovich Ionov is accused of conspiring to get American citizens to act as unlawful agents of the Russian government. Ionov has also been sanctioned by the Treasury Department and is accused of donating money to organizations he and Russian intelligence believe would create political unrest in the United States.
Authorities say Ionov recruited political groups in Florida, Georgia and California for about a decade and led those groups to advance pro-Russian talking points. He also paid members of the group to attend government-funded conferences in Russia and to attend a protest in the United States against social media efforts to suppress online support for Ukraine’s invasion of Ukraine. Moscow.
Alabama men captured in Ukraine sent to prison, family say
Two Americans who went missing while fighting with the Ukrainian army are spending time together in prison, the family of one of the men said in a statement Thursday.
Alex Drueke, 39, who was captured in June along with fellow veteran and Alabama resident Andy Huynh, 27, told his mother they were transferred in a phone call, a statement said. from his family.
“He looked strong and clear-headed,” Lois “Bunny” Drueke said. “He said he and Andy had been moved to a traditional prison, they were no longer in solitary confinement but were now together 24/7.”
The men, who traveled to fight separately but befriended in Ukraine, disappeared near Kharkiv during a battle in June. A video of the couple shown by Russian state television confirmed that they had been captured. They are believed to be the first Americans captured by the Russians.
Blinken and Lavrov talk about a “meaningful proposal” on the exchange of prisoners
Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he spoke to his Russian counterpart on Friday for the first time since February about the US proposal to secure the release of Brittney Griner, a professional basketball player, and former Marine Paul Whelan.
He did not confirm it was a proposed prisoner swap, but said it was an “important proposal that has been on the table for a few weeks now”. CNN reported that the proposed deal would involve an exchange of US citizens with convicted arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving time in the United States.
Griner has been detained since Feb. 17 on drug trafficking charges for transporting marijuana in vape cartridges. Whelan has been imprisoned in Russia since 2018 for espionage.
Blinken said he urged Foreign Minister Lavrov to go ahead with the proposal, but declined to say how he responded.
National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby told reporters ahead of Blinken’s announcement that he considered it a “good sign” that Lavrov publicly acknowledged his willingness to listen to the proposal.
Kirby said going public with the proposal’s existence “was not a decision we took lightly.”
“We felt that in the context of what was happening in the Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan cases, as well as what was not happening, it was important to state publicly that there was in fact a serious offer. made by the US side that has not been implemented,” Kirby said.
– Francesca Chambers and Deirdre Shesgreen
Russia plans to restore captured Ukrainian city of Mariupol
Russian authorities plan to fully restore Mariupol within three years, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said during a meeting with President Vladimir Putin.
Proposed plans include an airport and new transport infrastructure, with 90 social facilities restored later this year. “We plan to make a new transport interchange a hub where there will be a station, a port and tram lines,” Khusnullin said.
Russia claimed victory over Mariupol in May after a nearly three-month siege that destroyed much of the strategic port city. More than 20,000 civilians were reportedly killed.
The plans proposed by Khusnullin included determining what would happen to the Azovstal steelworks in Maripol. “We discuss this issue a lot with local residents, we see that it is still possible to save a few jobs without restoring harmful production,” he said.
Russia targets Kyiv for first time in weeks; 5 civilians injured
Russian forces hit the Kyiv region with six missiles launched from the Black Sea on Thursday for the first time since focusing on the eastern Donbass region a few weeks ago after failing to capture the capital.
Oleksii Hromov, a senior Ukrainian General Staff official, said the missiles hit a military unit in the village of Liutizh, on the outskirts of the capital. Russia also shelled the northern Chernihiv region.
Fifteen people were injured in the Russian strikes, including five civilians, Kyiv Regional Governor Oleksiy Kuleba said.
Meanwhile, five people were killed and 25 injured in a Russian rocket attack on the town of Kropvynytskyi, about 150 miles southeast of Kyiv, according to the deputy governor of Ukraine’s Kirovohrad region, Andriy Raikovich. . He said the attack hit hangars at an air academy, damaging civilian planes.
Ukraine launches counter-offensive, British military says
Ukraine is stepping up its counterattack while working to cut off access to the occupied city of Kherson, according to an assessment by the British Ministry of Defence.
The British military said Ukraine used its new Western-supplied long-range artillery to damage at least three of the bridges over the Dnieper that Russia relies on to supply its forces.
Kyiv forces plan to isolate Russian troops and leave them with three options: “to withdraw, if possible, to surrender or to be destroyed,” Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovich said, according to Ukrainian media.
Contributor: The Associated Press; Chris Kenning, USA TODAY