White House officials believe Russia is preparing to fabricate evidence to blame Ukrainian forces for the deadly explosion at Olenivka prison before outside parties visit the compound.
A government official told CNN they expect Russia to falsify evidence, frame Ukrainian forces and even “have reason to believe Russia would go so far as to make it appear that Ukraine’s HIMARS are at fault before journalists arrive.”
Earlier this year, the US supplied Ukraine with the HIMARS multiple launch rocket system.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the attack on the prison in separatist-held eastern Ukraine was “a premeditated war crime by the Russians”.
Russia has previously blamed Ukraine for the attack.
UN mission: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said in a press briefing on Wednesday that the United Nations is trying to set up an investigative team to investigate the attack on the detention facility, which left at least 50 dead and injured dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war.
Russia and Ukraine both called for an investigation into the attack, Guterres told reporters in New York. He added that the terms of reference for the panel would need to be accepted by Russia and Ukraine before the fact-finding mission could begin.
Ukraine accuses mercenary group: Intelligence from Ukraine’s Defense Ministry claimed on Wednesday that the blasting of the building where Ukrainian soldiers were being held was “carried out by militants from the military command center ‘Wagner’ with a highly flammable substance, resulting in the rapid spread of fire through the premises.”
Wagner is a private military contractor whose fighters were involved in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and other conflicts in Africa and the Middle East.
CNN is unable to verify the claim made by Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Service, which has not provided any evidence to support its claim.
What Russia says: The Russian government has denied allegations by the White House of falsifying evidence.
“Here one thing can be said that is absolutely obvious and absolutely proven about what happened in Olenivka. People, namely the Ukrainian prisoners of war who were being held there, died at the hands of the Ukrainian military,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists in a call on Thursday.
“Ukraine has killed its captured soldiers. Many wounded. So there is hard evidence here and there is nothing to hide,” Peskov said.
In Thursday’s conference call, Peskov said Russia had invited the UN and ICRC to visit the site. However, in a statement released on Wednesday, the ICRC said it has still not been granted access to the site.
CNN’s Uliana Pavlova contributed to this post.
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