Artillery fire hit a maximum-security prison in suburban Donetsk, Ukraine, causing a riot that allowed over 100 prisoners to escape, The Huffington Post is reporting.
The breach appears to have occurred after the Ukrainian government launched rockets into the area surrounding the city, which has been held by pro-Russian rebels. The city has been cut off from the rest of the country -- a strategy employed by the Ukrainian military -- leaving hundreds of thousands without basic services, such as electricity - and rebels accuse the Ukrainian government of using heavy artillery in their campaign to re-take the city.
However, government spokesperson Andriy Lysenko placed the blame on the separatists, saying:
"Bandits in Donetsk shelled residential quarters and correctional facility No. 124."
A prisoner who identified himself as Vova Kordemansky told The Associated Press, via Huffington Post:
"At around 10 p.m., after lights went out and the prisoners began heading to their sleeping quarters, a rocket hit this place. Nobody was in this room, but one guy downstairs had his head blown off."
The break happened because a shell hit an electrical substation that powered the prison's security system. In the chaos, one prisoner was killed and five were injured, according to BBC. Two guards were also injured. Prisoners were forced to flee the shelling and into a nearby residential area. As of this post, 34 have been re-captured, according to Ukraine's prison service. Among those who remain free are violent offenders who are incarcerated for robbery, murder, and rape.
According to Donetsk city council spokesperson Maxim Rovinsky:
"Extremely dangerous prisoners are now free. It is hard to know the extent of threat this poses to the city, which is flooded with weapons."
However, a Ukrainian prison spokesperson has downplayed that threat, saying that the situation is "challenging, but manageable."
The fighting between the pro-Russian rebels and the Ukrainian government has left the city of Donetsk decimated. Some 400,000 people have fled the city, which formerly had a population of over a million. The Russians have proposed an "aid corridor," according to BBC, to allow humanitarian aid into the city, but Western government officials fear that it would be used as a pretext to allow Russian weapons, and potentially personnel, into the region. As of this post, it is unclear to what extent Russia is directly involved in the fighting (see this Inquisitr article).
As of this post, authorities are still trying to track down the remaining Donetsk prison escapees.
[Image courtesy of: BBC]