Ukraine Live Briefing: Russia accused of ‘deliberate mass murder’; Donetsk ordered to evacuate

A ship awaits in the grain elevators section the port in the city of Odessa, Ukraine, on July 29.
A ship awaits in the grain elevators section the port in the city of Odessa, Ukraine, on July 29. (Wojciech Grzedzinski/For The Washington Post)
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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has accused Russia of the “mass murder” of Ukrainian prisoners of war in an occupied area of the eastern Donetsk region. On Saturday, he again called for recognition of Russia as a “terrorist state,” particularly calling on the U.S. State Department.

Grain shipments from Ukrainian ports could resume soon. Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • Donetsk is under a mandatory evacuation order, Zelensky said in his nightly address Saturday. He said the government would assist residents who have yet to evacuate from the region. Ukrainian Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said residents in the occupied region would have no heat in winter due to a lack of gas supply, according to Ukrainian state-owned broadcaster Ukrinform.
  • The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said Saturday it had requested access to a prison in eastern Ukraine where more than 50 Ukrainian POWs are reported to have been killed. Moscow and Kyiv accuse each other of attacking the facility in Olenivka, in a Russian occupied sector of the Donetsk region. Zelensky said his diplomats had sent data about the attack to the U.N.
  • Russia has invited experts from the ICRC and United Nations to investigate the Olenivka attack, to ensure the probe is “objective,” the country’s Ministry of Defense said in a Telegram message on Saturday.
  • The Russian Embassy said soldiers of the Azov Regiment, part of the National Guard of Ukraine, deserved a “humiliating death,” in a tweet on Saturday. Twitter flagged the post, saying it violated the platform’s rules, but kept the tweet accessible for the “public’s interest.” Dozens of POWs from the Azov Regiment were killed Friday during a strike in Donbas, and Russia and Ukraine traded blame for the attack.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to accept a U.S. proposal for the return of WNBA star Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan in a call on Friday. Blinken, addressing reporters at the State Department, did not indicate whether the discussion was fruitful. There is speculation that the U.S. is seeking to swap Whelan and Griner for Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who is serving a 25-year sentence in Illinois.
  • Grain shipments from Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea could restart very soon. Ukraine says it is ready to resume exporting grain as part of a U.N.-brokered deal, once the routes for vessels leaving its ports are confirmed. More than 20 million tons of grain have been stuck in Ukraine since Russia’s invasion in February.

Battlefield updates

  • Ukrainian and E.U. officials have condemned Russia after a graphic series of videos appeared on pro-Russian telegram channels. The videos showed a group of men, one whom was seen wearing pro-Russian symbols, castrate and execute a prisoner dressed in military fatigues with Ukrainian military insignia. E.U. diplomat Josep Borrell described it as a “heinous atrocity.” The Washington Post was unable to confirm the date or location of where the videos were filmed.
  • Explosions have been heard for a second consecutive night in Ukraine’s second largest city of Kharkiv, according to state broadcaster Suspilne. There was no immediate word on casualties. Russian shelling early on Friday hit a two-story building and a university.
  • One person was killed and six others injured when rockets hit districts of the southern city of Mykolaiv overnight, Mayor Oleksandr Sienkevych said in a Telegram post.
  • Russia intends to “dismantle Ukraine as a geopolitical entity and dissolve it from the world map entirely,” U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said on Friday. Russian-installed authorities in newly occupied territories in southern Ukraine are likely under increasing pressure from Moscow to prepare for referendums on joining Russia later in the year, the U.K. defense ministry said Saturday.

Global impact

  • Russian energy giant Gazprom said Saturday it had suspended supplies to neighboring Latvia, citing “violations of the conditions” of purchase. The statement did not give details on what conditions had been allegedly violated. Russia has already cut supplies to countries including Poland, the Netherlands and Denmark after energy companies there refused to pay for supplies in rubles. On Friday, Latvian energy firm Latvijas Gaze said it was buying gas from Russia, although not from Gazprom, and paying in euros. It declined to name its supplier.
  • Blinken will travel to South Africa, Congo and Rwanda next month with an itinerary that includes trade, human rights, food security and climate. Lavrov toured several countries on the continent this week to court favor and drag them into the war with Ukraine, according to a Washington Post analysis.

From our correspondents on the ground

A care center for Ukraine’s disabled deals with the trauma of occupation, write The Washington Post’s Miriam Berger, Kostiantyn Khudov and Whitney Leaming.

Maryna Hanitska had no choice. She wrapped her patients’ fragile bodies in trash bags and buried them in a hastily dug mass grave in the frigid cold under threat of Russian fire. It will haunt her forever.

Hanitska, 44, is the director of Borodyanka’s psychoneurological hospital, a government-run center for men with schizophrenia, cerebral palsy, high-needs autism, and other intellectual and developmental disabilities.

For about 50 years, the facility near Kyiv has treated the complex needs of some of Ukraine’s most vulnerable. But there was no precedent for treating the trauma of Russian occupation.