White House says it can’t “speak intelligently,” while UN has no first-hand information
The US on Friday declined to speculate on the shelling of the Ukrainian prisoners in Elenovka, saying it did not have enough information to do so. Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern about the incident, but his office said he lacked firsthand reports to comment further. Dozens of “Azov” fighters housed at the complex were killed in what Russia says was a strike by HIMARS rockets supplied by the US to Ukraine.
“We just don’t have enough information to speak intelligently about these very early reports,” John Kirby, spokesman for the US National Security Council, told reporters.
According to an unnamed senior Pentagon official, Americans “don’t have any definitive information” on what happened and whether the facility was struck by Ukraine or Russia.
The facility in Elenovka, south of Donetsk, housed hundreds of Ukrainian prisoners – mainly members of the “Azov” neo-Nazi militia captured in Mariupol in May. It was struck at around 2 am on Friday, as the prisoners were asleep. As of Friday afternoon, Donetsk People’s Republic authorities say 53 people were killed and 75 were injured.
The government in Kiev accused Russia of carrying out the attack on the territory of its Donbass ally. DPR authorities, however, showed fragments of what they said were rockets used by HIMARS, the rocket artillery supplied to the Ukrainian military by the US.
Ukrainian authorities also knew exactly where the “Azov” prisoners were being held, DPR militia spokesman Eduard Basurin told reporters, accusing Kiev of ordering the strike. He said the attack was intended to kill the “Azov” fighters who began to testify about war crimes and other atrocities Ukrainian forces had been involved in.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian president Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.