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UN chief forms fact-finding team for Donetsk prison attack

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres holds a joint press conference with the Turkish National Defense Minister at the Joint Coordination Center established in Istanbul for the safe shipment of grain products from the Black Sea region in Istanbul on Aug 20, 2022. (YASIN AKGUL / AFP)

UNITED NATIONS – UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday appointed members of a fact-finding mission to look into the July 29 attack on a Donetsk prison in Ukraine that reportedly killed dozens of prisoners of war, said his spokesman.

Guterres announced his decision to launch the fact-finding mission on Aug. 3, following requests from the governments of Ukraine and Russia, which accused each other of carrying out the fatal attack on the prison in Olenivka.

UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Catherine Russell on Monday also voiced concern over child casualties in the Ukraine conflict

In Lviv, Ukraine, on Thursday, the secretary-general announced his intention to appoint retired Gen Carlos dos Santos Cruz of Brazil to lead the mission. The appointment has now been done, said Stephane Dujarric, the spokesman.

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Guterres has also appointed the other members of the team: Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir of Iceland and Issoufou Yacouba of Niger, said the spokesman.

The terms of reference of the mission as well as the make-up of the team were shared with Ukraine and Russia. The United Nations will now continue to work to obtain the necessary assurances to guarantee secure access to the site and any other relevant locations, said Dujarric. 

"As the secretary-general said very clearly in Lviv, to put it simply, a fact-finding mission must be free to find the facts. The team must be able to gather and analyze necessary information. Above all, that means safe, secure and unfettered access to people, places and evidence without any interference from any party," he said.

UNICEF

Meanwhile, UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Catherine Russell on Monday voiced concern over child casualties in the Ukraine conflict.

At least 972 children in Ukraine have been killed or injured by violence since the conflict escalated nearly six months ago, an average of over five children killed or injured each day. And these are just the figures the United Nations has been able to verify. It is believed that the true number to be much higher, said Russell in a statement.

The most of the child casualties were caused by the use of explosive weapons, which do not discriminate between civilian and combatant, especially when used in populated areas, she said.

The start of the school year in just over a week's time is a stark reminder of how much children in Ukraine have lost. Ukraine's education system has been devastated by the escalation of hostilities across the country. Schools have been targeted or used by parties, resulting in families not feeling safe to send their children to school. UNICEF estimates that one in 10 schools have been damaged or destroyed, she said.

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"UNICEF continues to call for an immediate cease-fire in Ukraine and for all children to be protected from harm. This includes ending the brutal use of explosive weapons in populated areas and attacks on civilian facilities and infrastructure. Ukraine's children urgently need safety, stability, access to safe learning, child protection services, and psychosocial support. But more than anything, Ukraine's children need peace," she said.