World: Ukraine condemns Russia's 'humiliating death' tweet

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Ukraine has labelled Russia a "terrorist state" after Moscow's UK embassy tweeted that Ukrainian Azov battalion soldiers deserved a "humiliating death" by hanging.

The BBC has blurred some of this photograph showing the building after it was attacked © REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko The BBC has blurred some of this photograph showing the building after it was attacked

The embassy tweet came amid a row about the deaths of more than 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) held by Russia - Azov soldiers reportedly among them.

They died in an attack on Olenivka prison in Russian-held eastern Ukraine.

Twitter did not remove the tweet, but said it broke Twitter anti-hate rules.

Besides the Ukrainian government, many other Twitter users voiced outrage at the tweet. Twitter says it may be in the public interest to keep the post accessible.

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Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of attacking the Olenivka prison camp, which is controlled by the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR).

What happened there on Friday remains unclear. Unverified Russian video footage of the aftermath shows a tangle of wrecked bunk beds and badly charred bodies.

After the attack the Russian embassy in the UK tweeted that Azov "militants deserve execution, but death not by firing squad but by hanging, because they're not real soldiers. They deserve a humiliating death".

The tweet included a video clip showing a couple in a wrecked building, accusing Azov troops of having shelled their home. The embassy's call for execution repeats what the man in the video says.

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Azov troops were captured in May after fiercely defending Azovstal, a giant steelworks in the southern city of Mariupol. Russia has long accused the battalion of being neo-Nazis and war criminals.

Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian presidential chief of staff, wrote on Telegram that "Russia is a terrorist country".

"In the 21st Century, only savages and terrorists can say at a diplomatic level that people deserve to be executed by hanging for nothing. The RF [Russia] is a state sponsor of terrorism. What more proof do you need?" he said.

Relatives of troops who defended Azovstal rallied against Russia in Kyiv on Saturday © Reuters Relatives of troops who defended Azovstal rallied against Russia in Kyiv on Saturday

Ukraine has called for the United Nations and Red Cross to be allowed to investigate the deaths at Olenivka. The Red Cross says it is seeking access to the prison to help with evacuating and treating the wounded.

Ukraine says the site was targeted by Russia in an effort to destroy evidence of torture and killing. President Volodymyr Zelensky described the incident as a "deliberate Russian war crime".

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Ukraine's foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko tweeted: "There is no difference between Russian diplomats calling for execution of Ukrainian prisoners of war and Russian troops doing it in Olenivka. They are all accomplices in these war crimes and must be held accountable."

DNR spokesman Daniil Bezsonov said the strike had killed 53 people and wounded 75. He called it a "direct hit on a barracks holding prisoners".

Russia's defence ministry said the strike had been carried out with US-made Himars artillery and it accused Ukraine of a "deliberately perpetrated" provocation. The ministry produced fragments of what it said were rockets fired by the Himars system.

A war crime but who was behind it?

By Paul Adams in Kyiv

The scene inside the "filtration camp" near Olenivka is hellish.

Rays of sunlight shining through jagged holes in the corrugated iron roof reveal a tangle of metal bunk beds and an unknown number of charred bodies, some of them still lying where, presumably, they had been sleeping.

Outside, there is blood on a wooden pallet and more bodies, not burned, but bloodied. They look emaciated.

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With independent journalists not able to access the site, there's little anyone can do at the moment to verify the competing claims. Ukraine says it has a mountain of evidence, including an intercepted radio conversation between Russian-backed separatists, in which they talk about a series of explosions deliberately engineered by the rebels themselves. Other Ukrainian sources blame mercenaries from Russia's Wagner group.

Only a thorough investigation by impartial experts can possibly establish the truth. Whether such experts will ever be allowed access to this appalling scene is doubtful.

Footage of the destruction within a hangar-like dormitory filled with burned or destroyed bunk beds appeared online on Friday morning. The footage came from Russian state TV channel Russia 1. It then cuts to footage of destruction and bloodshed outside the building.

The BBC cannot verify whether the interior and exterior shots are at the same location.

The BBC's Reality Check team have, however, confirmed that the shots of the outside of the building match Prison No. 120, near Olenivka.

The prison was empty before February 2022, and has been used exclusively for POWs and civilians who did not pass Russian filtration - a system where people are interrogated before it is decided where they will be sent.

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Andriy Biletskyi, a founder of the nationalist Azov Battalion, said a number of the unit's soldiers were among those killed.

  Ukraine condemns Russia's 'humiliating death' tweet © BBC

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