US expects Russia to ‘frame’ Ukrainians for POW killings
WASHINGTON — The White House on Thursday said new intelligence suggests Russia is working to fabricate evidence concerning last week’s deadly strike on a prison housing prisoners of war in a separatist region of eastern Ukraine.
U.S. intelligence officials have determined that Russia is looking to plant false evidence to make it appear that Ukrainian forces were responsible for the July 29 attack on Olenivka Prison that left 53 dead and wounded dozens more, according to White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
Separately, a Western government official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity, said explosive experts who have reviewed photos of the prison released by the Russians following the incident have determined that the destruction wasn’t likely caused by “a high-explosive strike from the outside” and that it was “much more likely to be incendiary and from inside the location.”
“We anticipate that Russian officials will try to frame the Ukrainian Armed Forces in anticipation of journalists and potential investigators visiting the site of the attack,” Kirby said.
Russia has claimed that Ukraine’s military used U.S.-supplied rocket launchers to strike the prison in Olenivka, a settlement controlled by the Moscow-backed Donetsk People’s Republic.
The Ukrainian military denied making any rocket or artillery strikes in Olenivka. The intelligence arm of the Ukrainian defense ministry claimed in a statement Wednesday to have evidence that local Kremlin-backed separatists colluded with the Russian FSB, the KGB’s main successor agency, and mercenary group Wagner to mine the barrack before “using a flammable substance, which led to the rapid spread of fire in the room.”
Kirby said the classified intelligence determination shows that Russian officials might even plant ammunition from medium-ranged High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, as evidence that the systems provided by the U.S. to Ukraine were used in the attack.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Thursday angrily dismissed the U.S. officials’ claims about Russia fabricating evidence.
“It has been absolutely proven and it’s absolutely obvious what happened in Olenivka,” Peskov said Thursday in a conference call with reporters. “Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed by the Ukrainian military.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Wednesday he is appointing a fact-finding mission in response to requests from Russia and Ukraine to investigate the killings at the prison.
The Ukrainian POWs included troops captured during the fall of Mariupol. Their resistance during a relentless Russian bombardment became a symbol of Ukrainian defiance against Russia’s aggression.