At least forty Ukrainian prisoners of war have been killed in a Russian detention camp, with the warring countries accusing the other of carrying out the deadly attack.
Russian forces accused Kyiv of targeting the Olenivka prison in Donetsk overnight using US-supplied HIMARS rocket systems in a strike which also injured 75.
But Ukraine said Putin’s men carried out ‘targeted artillery shelling’ in a bid to both accuse Ukraine of war crimes and hide any evidence of their torture and mass executions in the prison.
The Kremlin’s defence ministry said this morning that eight employees at the detention centre were also injured.
Denis Pushilin, leader of the Donetsk separatists, put the death toll at 47 people. Territorial defence forces of the separatist statelet said that 53 people died.
Ukrainian servicemen fire an M777 howitzer in Kharkiv Region in northeastern Ukraine today
A residential house burns after a Russian military strike, as the attacks on Ukraine continue in the town of Bakhmut
Firefighters extinguish a fire in a shelled house in Bakhmut as Russia and Ukraine continue to trade blows
A fisherman watches smoke rise after Russian forces launched a missile attack on a military unit in the Vyshhorod district on the outskirts of Kyiv
The Ukrainian prisoners of war included members of the Azov battalion, who defended the Azovstal plant (pictured in May)
Ukrainian authorities in the Donetsk region also said today that Russia has pressed on with the shelling of civilian targets in Ukrainian-held areas
Russian tank commander has life sentence for killing civilian REDUCED
A Russian tank commander who became the first of Putin’s soldiers to be jailed for war crimes in Ukraine has seen his life sentence reduced to 15 years on appeal.
Vadim Shishimarin, 21, shot dead 62-year-old Oleksandr Shelipov in cold blood in Ukraine’s northern Sumy region in the opening days of the war.
He was later captured and brought to Kyiv for trial, where he pleaded guilty to war crimes charges back in May
But the baby-faced killer’s lawyers appealed, saying the sentence was unduly harsh given he had admitted wrongdoing and was acting on the orders of a superior.
Today, an appeals court in the Ukrainian capital agreed and cut the penalty to 15 years. Viktor Ovsyannikov, Shishimarin’s lawyer, had been asking for 10 years.
Ovsyannikov said it is highly likely that Shishimarin will at some point be traded back to Russia in a prisoner swap.
Mr Shelipov had been pushing his bike along a road in the Ukrainian village of Chupakhivka when he encountered Shishimarin and men from his unit, who were riding in a stolen civilian car.
Fearing that Mr Shelipov – a veteran of the Soviet military – was going to report their location to Ukrainian forces, Shishimarin’s superiors ordered him to kill the man.
He fired several shots at Mr Shelipov’s head from an automatic rifle, killing him.
A total of 193 people were held in the jail at the time of the strike, Pushilin said in comments broadcast on Russian state television.
The Russian defence ministry said the Ukrainian prisoners of war included members of the Azov battalion, who defended the Azovstal plant in Ukraine’s port city of Mariupol.
Moscow claimed that the ‘bloody provocation of the Kyiv regime’ was designed to discourage Ukrainian troops from laying down their arms and surrendering.
‘This egregious provocation was carried out to intimidate Ukrainian servicemen,’ the defence ministry said.
Pushilin, the Donetsk leader, claimed Kyiv forces struck the jail because Ukrainian prisoners of war had begun to testify.
After a weeks-long siege and resistance at the Azovstal steel plant, the last stronghold of Mariupol, around 2,500 Ukrainian fighters surrendered in May.
Meanwhile, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement: ‘The armed forces of the Russian Federation carried out targeted artillery shelling of a correctional institution in the settlement of Olenivka, Donetsk oblast, where Ukrainian prisoners were also held.
‘In this way, the Russian occupiers pursued their criminal goals – to accuse Ukraine of committing ‘war crimes’, as well as to hide the torture of prisoners and executions…’
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Volodymyr Zelensky, said the Russian allegations were ‘a classic, cynical and elaborate false flag operation’ intended to discredit Ukrainian authorities.
Ukrainian authorities in the Donetsk region also said today that Russia has pressed on with the shelling of civilian targets in Ukrainian-held areas.
‘The fighting in the region has been intensifying by the day, and civilians must evacuate while it’s still possible,’ said Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
‘The Russian army doesn’t worry about civilian casualties. They are pummelling cities and villages in the region.’
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky visits a sea port in Odesa before restarting grain export
Ukraine said at least five people had been killed and seven wounded in a Russian missile strike on the southeastern city of Mykolaiv
A residential building damaged in an attack by Russian forces on the city of Toretsk in the Donetsk Oblast
A view of the damage at a football stadium after a shelling in Bakhmut
Scores of Ukrainian soldiers were taken to prisons in Russian-controlled areas such as the Donetsk region, a breakaway area in eastern Ukraine which is run by Russian-backed separatist authorities.
Some have returned to Ukraine as part of prisoner exchanges with Russia, but families of others have no idea whether their loved ones are alive or if they will ever come home.
Separately Ukraine said at least five people had been killed and seven wounded in a Russian missile strike on the southeastern city of Mykolaiv, a river port just off the Black Sea, as Russia fired across frontlines in eastern and southern Ukraine.
A missile struck near a public transport stop, regional governor Vitaly Kim said on Telegram.
Russia, which denies targeting civilians, did not immediately comment on the situation and Reuters could not verify the battlefield reports.
An intelligence update from Britain said Russia has ordered mercenaries to hold sections of the frontline in Ukraine
Officials in Kyiv said on Wednesday they had observed a ‘massive redeployment’ of Russian forces to the south
An intelligence update from Britain said Russia has ordered mercenaries to hold sections of the frontline in Ukraine – a sign it is running short of combat infantry as Kyiv steps up a counter-offensive in the south.
Greater reliance on fighters from the Russian private military company Wagner Group for frontline duties rather than their usual work in special operations would be another sign that Russia’s military is under stress six months into its war in Ukraine.
But the British defence ministry said in the update that Wagner mercenaries were unlikely to make up for the loss of regular infantry units or alter the trajectory of Russia’s invasion.
‘This is a significant change from the previous employment of the group since 2015, when it typically undertook missions distinct from overt, large-scale regular Russian military activity,’ the ministry said.
Wagner and the Kremlin were not immediately available for comment.
Officials in Kyiv said on Wednesday they had observed a ‘massive redeployment’ of Russian forces to the south where British defence officials believe Russia’s 49th Army, stationed on the west bank of the Dnipro River, is vulnerable.
Ukraine’s counter-attacks in the south come as Russia battles for control of the entirety of the industrialised Donbas region in the east, comprising the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Russia ‘has prepared EVACUATION plans for Putin in case his army is defeated in Ukraine’ claims Telegram channel which also alleged Vladimir is suffering numerous health problems
Vladimir Putin and his friends are making preparations to flee Russia should his army be defeated in Ukraine, according to a Telegram channel that claims to come from inside the Kremlin.
With his Donbas offensive stalling, Ukraine preparing to re-capture Kherson and his economy crumbling, the Russian dictator is ‘aware of the possibility of a sharp change of mood in the country.’
Last week, the General SVR channel reported that the 69-year-old had suffered from ‘severe nausea’ overnight, with doctors at his bedside for around three hours.
Following on from that report, they claim that ‘Putin himself and his entourage are preparing plans for evacuation from Russia.’
It is thought that any plane carrying Putin and his family out of Russia would head to fellow dictatorship Syria, the nearest friendly state and whose leader, Bashar al-Assad, Putin bailed out by intervening in the Syrian civil war in 2015.
Any flight from Russia to Syria, however, would have to fly through the airspace of Turkey, a NATO member.
Vladimir Putin and his friends are reported to be making preparations to flee Russia should his army be defeated in Ukraine
It is thought that any plane carrying Putin and his family out of Russia might head to fellow dictatorship Syria, whose dictator Bashar al-Assad (pictured left) Putin bailed out by intervening in the Syrian civil war in 2015
Were Turkey’s strongman leader, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to refuse permission to the plane carrying Putin and his family to enter his airspace, it would effectively scupper the Russian tyrant’s quickest and perhaps only getaway route.
Erdogan and Putin have a complex relationship, having been friends and enemies at various times over the past decade as each leader tries to navigate their country through a challenging geopolitical neighbourhood.
Iran is another regional power – and Western foe – that would be interested in Putin’s fate.
‘In principle, it is beneficial for Iran and Turkey to keep the Russian president in exile in reserve, using him, depending on the situation, as a lever or as a bargaining chip,’ the channel states.
Although Turkey is a member of the Western military alliance, under Erdogan’s leadership the country has cut its own diplomatic path in international relations.
Earlier this month Putin met with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts in Tehran, ostensibly to discuss Syria.
It is not too much of a stretch to imagine that Erdogan and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi discussed in private the possibility of Putin requiring asylum from a coup or revolution at home.
Putin, met with Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi, and Turkish president Erdogan in Tehran – to leaders who would have a strong interest if Putin needed asylum
Erdogan (left) and Putin (right) have a complex relationship, having been friends and enemies at various times over the past decade as each leader tries to navigate their country through challenging geopolitical times
Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces were said yesterday to be gaining momentum near the occupied city of Kherson.
Air strikes have destroyed several bridges leaving the remaining Russian troops cut off, and a counteroffensive to re-take the only major city that Russia managed to capture is expected in the coming weeks.
Back home for Putin, Yale experts state that Russia is losing the economic war with the West and its economy is in catastrophic and irrevocable decline.
Russia is on the ropes, with business in retreat and sanctions catastrophically crippling their economy, they claim.
Every single sector of the Russian economy is in trouble – both its imports and its exports are down and its allies are not helping, and in some cases actively taking advantage.
With the cataclysmic state of the Russian economy in mind, it is no wonder that Putin might be considering retirement in Syria.
But even then it is questionable whether he will receive the medical care that he reportedly needs.
The Russian army has used the Antonivskiy bridge over the Dnipro River as a key resupply route into Kherson, now blown up by Ukrainian missiles as they prepare a counteroffensive
The General SVR channel, which claims to be run by a former officer from Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, said earlier this week: ‘Putin on the night of Friday July 22 to Saturday July 23 needed urgent medical care.
‘At about 1am, the medical workers on duty at [his] residence were summoned to the president. Putin complained of severe nausea.
‘Twenty minutes later, an additional team of doctors with the president’s attending physicians was called.
‘It is known that doctors provided assistance and were near Putin for three hours, and after the president’s condition improved, they left his chambers.’
It claimed a decision was made that in some events this week ‘he will be replaced by a double’.
The body double theory was backed up by head of Ukrainian military intelligence, who speculated that a Vladimir Putin body ‘double’ may have been used for his arrival at the Tehran summit.
While the Russian leader looked awkward as he came down the steps of his presidential plane in Tehran, Ukrainian sources noted he moved unusually quickly and was more alert than in prior public appearances.
The Russian premier looked animated when greeting the waiting party, before removing his jacket and clambering into a heavily armoured limousine.
It was only the second time Putin had been abroad since launching his brutal invasion of Ukraine five months ago.
The General SVR channel has previously claimed that Putin is suffering from a series of serious illnesses including cancer, Parkinson’s disease and a schizoaffective disorder.