Olenivka prison massacre

Killing of prisoners of war in Ukraine

47°49′42″N 37°42′39″E / 47.82846°N 37.71093°E / 47.82846; 37.71093Coordinates: 47°49′42″N 37°42′39″E / 47.82846°N 37.71093°E / 47.82846; 37.71093Date29 July 2022
Attack type
Unknown (might be an explosion in the building or artillery shelling)Deaths53+Injured75+PerpetratorsDisputed
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On 29 July 2022, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a Russian-operated prison in Molodizhne near Olenivka, Donetsk Oblast, was destroyed, killing 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war (POWs) and leaving 75 wounded.[1] The prisoners were mainly soldiers from the Azovstal complex, the last Ukrainian stronghold in the siege of Mariupol.[2]

Both Ukrainian and Russian authorities accused each other of the attack on the prison.[3][4] The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said that the Russians blew up the barrack in order to cover up the torture and murder of Ukrainian POWs that had been taking place there, and Ukrainian authorities provided what they said were satellite images of pre-dug graves and intercepted communications indicating Russian culpability,[5][6] while Russians suggest that a HIMARS rocket was shot from Ukrainian territory.[7]

On 3 August, the UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres announced his decision to established a fact-finding mission, as requested both by the Russia and Ukraine.[8][9]

Explosion

On the night of 29 July, a single barrack in a prison in Molodizhne was damaged by an explosion, killing and wounding a number of prisoners kept inside. The prison is located near the village of Olenivka, a settlement southwest of Donetsk that is controlled by the Russian-backed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). Russian and DPR casualty tallies suggest 53 Ukrainian POWs died, and another 75 were wounded[10] (a Russian communiqué initially suggested 40 dead and 75 wounded, in addition to 8 guards).[11] The Ukrainian side suggested that about 40 people were dead and 130 were wounded.[12]

Both sides agree that there were captive Azov fighters in the destroyed barracks, brought there a few days before the event. Denis Pushilin, the leader of DPR, suggested that among the 193 inmates at the detention facility, there were no foreigners but did not specify the number of Ukrainians held captive.[10] Russian officials released a list of deceased POWs. As of 30 July 2022[update], Ukrainian officials stated that they are unable to verify the list.[13]

On the day the prisoners were killed, the Russian embassy in London published a tweet that said Azov Regiment fighters "deserve execution, but death not by firing squad but by hanging, because they're not real soldiers. They deserve a humiliating death", with a video of a couple from Mariupol who said were victims of shelling. The sentence in the tweet was quotation of a man in the video.[14][15]

Four days after the explosion, the Russian supreme court declared the Azov Regiment a terrorist organization,[16] and in response Ukrainian intelligence said that this was intended to justify a Russian war crime committed against Ukrainians including members of the unit of the National Guard of Ukraine.[17]

Responsibility

Russian authorities stated that the Ukrainian forces attacked the prison using HIMARS rocket systems that had been provided by the United States.[7] As Russian side released videos and photos from inside the barrack, a CNN analysis suggests that the Russian version of events is very likely a fabrication as there is virtually no chance that the damage was caused by a HIMARS rocket. According to the analysis the most likely cause of the explosion was an incendiary device detonated from inside the prison warehouse.[18] The Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. based think tank said that available evidence suggests the Ukrainian version is more plausible as the character of explosions was not consistent with a HIMARS strike, but that it could not say with certainty which side is responsible.[19]

InformNapalm, a Ukrainian volunteer initiative, assigned the blame to the Russians by suggesting that they used a RPO-A Shmel flamethrower or an MRO-A rocket and waited for the captives to burn alive.[20] An Israeli-Ukrainian military officer suggested that Russia perpetrated the attack on Ukrainian war prisoners to make Russian soldiers fear torture and thus deter them from surrendering to Ukrainian forces advancing in the Kherson region.[21]

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) released recordings of taped telephone conversations between Russian soldiers, which suggested that the Russians had planted an explosive inside the building. The SBU added that from available video evidence, some windows were left intact and that no eyewitness accounts mention any shelling or sounds that would have normally accompanied it, which also suggests that no rocket had struck the detention facility.[22] According to Ukraine's Ministry of Defense Intelligence Directorate, the explosion was carried out by the Wagner Group, a Russian government-backed private military company accused of war crimes in Africa, Syria, and Ukraine, but without prior consultation with the Russian Defence Ministry.[4][23]

Reactions

Ukraine's Foreign Ministry appealed to the International Criminal Court regarding the attack, which it called a Russian war crime,[24] and Russia said it was starting its own investigation.[10] Russian and Ukrainian officials also called for the International Red Cross and the United Nations to intervene.[25][26] Late in the evening of 30 July Russia declared it will allow the representatives of these organisations on the site[27] while ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) declared it did not receive invitation, nor a response to their own request to visit the site.[28][2]

In a statement issued on 29 July, Josep Borrell, the top foreign relations official of the European Union, blamed Russia for the attack and called it a "horrific atrocity" and a "barbaric act".[29] The officials in Estonia,[30] the United Kingdom and France expressed a similar attitude.[31]

The White House on 2 August 2022 mentioned that new intelligence information hints that Russia is working to fabricate evidence concerning the massacre.[32] In August Russia invited a number of Russian media and actor Steven Seagal to the facility where they made statements supporting the official Russian version of HIMARS attack.[33]

As of October 2022 no international observers or humanitarian organizations were allowed into Olenivka or granted access to the survivors, and Russian side has never published a detailed list of killed and wounded, or notified their relatives, or ICRC who has officially registered them as prisoners of war during their surrender in Mariupol.[34][35][2]

Further events

On 11 October Ukraine declared it returned 62 bodies of its soldiers killed in Olenivka and due to publish full list of names and causes of death after bodies are identified.[36]

See also

References

  1. ^ "В ДНР заявили об ударе ВСУ по колонии с военнопленными в Еленовке. Сообщается о 53 погибших" [The DPR announced the strike of the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the colony with prisoners of war in Yelenovka. 53 deaths reported]. Meduza (in Russian). Archived from the original on 29 July 2022. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  2. ^ a b c "Admission of guilt: Russia blocks international investigation of Olenivka mass killing of Ukrainian POWs". Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group. Archived from the original on 30 September 2022. Retrieved 7 September 2022.
  3. ^ "Масова загибель українських полонених в Оленівці. Що відомо" [Mass death of Ukrainian prisoners in Olenivka. What is known]. BBC News Україна (in Ukrainian). Archived from the original on 1 August 2022. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  4. ^ a b Lister, Tim; Kesaieva, Julia; Pennington, Josh (30 July 2022). "Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says prison attack 'deliberate war crime by the Russians,' as Russia blames Ukraine". CNN News. Archived from the original on 11 August 2022. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  5. ^ "Russians struck Olenivka to cover up the torture and execution of prisoners General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine". news.yahoo.com. Archived from the original on 30 July 2022. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  6. ^ "'Absolute evil': Inside the Russian prison camp where dozens of Ukrainians burned to death". TheGuardian.com. 6 August 2022. Archived from the original on 30 September 2022. Retrieved 8 August 2022.
  7. ^ a b Reuters (29 July 2022). "Russia says Ukraine struck prison in Donetsk region, killing 40". Reuters. Archived from the original on 30 July 2022. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  8. ^ "U.N. chief launches fact-finding mission into Ukraine prison attack". Reuters. 4 August 2022. Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  9. ^ "UN fact-finding mission members appointed for Donetsk prison attack". Business Standard. 23 August 2022. Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  10. ^ a b c "Russia, Ukraine trade blame for deadly attack on POW prison". AP NEWS. 29 July 2022. Archived from the original on 1 August 2022. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  11. ^ "Russia accuses Ukraine of killing POWs with HIMARS system". www.aljazeera.com. Archived from the original on 2 August 2022. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  12. ^ "Внаслідок обстрілу Оленівки близько 40 осіб загинуло, 130 поранено – розпочато провадження" [As a result of the shelling of Olenivka, about 40 people died, 130 were injured – proceedings have been initiated]. armyinform.com.ua (in Ukrainian). Archived from the original on 30 July 2022. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  13. ^ "Russian offensive campaign assessment: 31 July". Institute for the Study of War. Archived from the original on 30 September 2022. Retrieved 31 July 2022.
  14. ^ Nsubuga, Jimmy (30 July 2022). "Outrage as Russian Embassy in UK tweets call for Ukrainian fighters to be executed in 'humiliating death'". Yahoo! News. Archived from the original on 31 July 2022. Retrieved 1 August 2022.
  15. ^ Melkozerova, Veronika (30 July 2022). "Russian Embassy in UK tweet responding to Ukrainian PoW massacre causes uproar". The New Voice of Ukraine. Archived from the original on 30 July 2022. Retrieved 31 July 2022.
  16. ^ Blann, Susie; Fraser, Suzan (2 August 2022). "Russia designates Ukraine's Azov Regiment terrorists". PBS NewsHour. Archived from the original on 3 August 2022. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
  17. ^ "Branding Azov fighters as terrorists, Russia seeks to justify its own war crimes – Ukrainian intelligence". The New Voice of Ukraine. Yahoo! News. 4 August 2022. Archived from the original on 3 August 2022. Retrieved 4 August 2022.
  18. ^ Lister, Tim; Mezzofiore, Gianluca; Cotovio, Vasco; Brown, Benjamin; Nechyporenko, Kostan (11 August 2022). "Russia claims Ukraine used US arms to kill jailed POWs. Evidence tells a different story". CNN (Special Report). Design by Sarah-Grace Mankarious and Marco Chacón. Archived from the original on 30 September 2022. Retrieved 12 August 2022.
  19. ^ "Russian offensive campaign assessment: 29 July". Institute for the Study of War. Archived from the original on 1 August 2022. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  20. ^ "Россия сожгла украинских военнопленных во сне с помощью термобарического оружия – InformNapalm" [Russia burned Ukrainian prisoners of war in their sleep with thermobaric weapons – InformNapalm]. Зеркало недели. Archived from the original on 30 July 2022. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  21. ^ Ponomarenko, Illia (29 July 2022). "Over 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war killed in Russian captivity". The Kyiv Independent. Archived from the original on 29 July 2022. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  22. ^ Tyshchenko, Kateryna (29 July 2022). "Explosion in the Olenivka penal colony planned and executed by the Russian Federation – conversation intercepted by SSU". Ukrainska Pravda. Archived from the original on 29 July 2022. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  23. ^ "Intelligence: Russia's Wagner Group behind attack on Olenivka penal colony". The Kyiv Independent. 29 July 2022. Archived from the original on 30 July 2022. Retrieved 29 July 2022.
  24. ^ Reuters (29 July 2022). "Ukraine appeals to International Criminal Court after prison attack". Reuters. Archived from the original on 29 July 2022. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  25. ^ "Russia says it has invited U.N., Red Cross experts to probe jail deaths". Reuters. 30 July 2022.
  26. ^ "AFU General Staff, SBU, Main Intelligence Agency and Rada Commissioner for Human Rights demand that UN, ICRC immediately respond to terrorist attack of Russia on Olenivka – statement". Interfax-Ukraine. Archived from the original on 31 July 2022. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  27. ^ "Война в Украине: Россия согласилась показать ООН и Красному Кресту Еленовку, в Севастополе пять человек ранены при атаке беспилотника – Новости на русском языке" [War in Ukraine: Russia agreed to show the UN and Red Cross Yelenovka, in Sevastopol five people were injured at drone attack – news in Russian]. BBC News Русская служба (in Russian). Archived from the original on 30 September 2022. Retrieved 31 July 2022.
  28. ^ "Olenivka penal facility: Prisoners of war and ICRC's role". 3 August 2022. Archived from the original on 30 September 2022. Retrieved 7 September 2022. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  29. ^ "'Sickening' video shows gagged Ukrainian POW being castrated". New York Post. 29 July 2022. Archived from the original on 30 July 2022. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  30. ^ "Estonian politicians condemn Olenivka prison attack". ERR. 30 July 2022. Archived from the original on 30 July 2022. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  31. ^ "Ukraine : Paris exprime son "horreur" après le bombardement d'une prison" [Ukraine: Paris expresses its "horror" after the bombing of a prison]. TF1 INFO (in French). 30 July 2022. Archived from the original on 30 July 2022. Retrieved 30 July 2022.
  32. ^ Madhani, Aamer; Lederer, Edith M. (4 August 2022). Written at Washington. "US says Russia aims to fabricate evidence in prison deaths". New York City: Associated Press. Archived from the original on 24 August 2022. Retrieved 6 August 2022.
  33. ^ "Steven Seagal Promotes Russian Claims That Ukraine Killed Its Own POWs". HuffPost UK. 11 August 2022. Archived from the original on 7 September 2022. Retrieved 7 September 2022.
  34. ^ "Ukraine-Russia international armed conflict: ICRC asks for immediate and unimpeded access to all prisoners of war". 14 October 2022. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  35. ^ "40 days since Olenivka tragedy: Russia still not let international experts in, relatives of POWs release statement". news.yahoo.com. Archived from the original on 30 September 2022. Retrieved 7 September 2022.
  36. ^ "Україна повернула тіла військових, загиблих під час теракту в Оленівці". Мілітарний (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 11 October 2022.

External links

  • Удар по колонии с пленными украинскими военными в Еленовке: то немногое, что пока известно (in Russian) (tr. "A strike on a colony with captured Ukrainian soldiers in Yelenovka: what little is known so far"), BBC.com
  • Harding, Luke (6 August 2022). "'Absolute evil': inside the Russian prison camp where dozens of Ukrainians burned to death". the Guardian. Retrieved 8 August 2022.
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