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pointing fingers

Ukraine and Russia trade blame after explosion kills dozens of Ukrainian POWs

Russia and Ukraine blamed each other on Friday for an explosion at a prison in Russian-occupied Donetsk that killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war, CNN and Reuters reported.

Russia says 40 were killed and 75 wounded, while a spokesman for the Russian-backed separatists put the death toll at 53. The prison held many of the Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered after the months-long siege of Mariupol's Azovstal steelworks.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced the attack as a "deliberate war crime." Ukraine's military accused Russia of targeting prison with its own artillery in order to cover up the mistreatment of Ukrainian POWs, per Reuters. Ukrainian intelligence offered a different explanation, blaming the explosion on mercenaries from the Wagner Group. According to a statement from Ukraine's Main Directorate of Intelligence, the "terrorist attack" was carried out without authorization from the Russian Defense Ministry in order to conceal the embezzlement of funds allocated to provide for the POWs.

The Russian Ministry of Defense released a statement claiming that the "Kyiv regime had deliberately carried out a bloody provocation" by striking the prison with a U.S.-made HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System). "[T]his blatant provocation was committed to intimidate Ukrainian servicemen and prevent them from being taken prisoner," the ministry alleged.