A jail attack in Russian-occupied Donetsk that murdered scores of Ukrainian prisoners of war has been denounced as a war crime by Volodymyr Zelensky, who has also called for an investigation into the incident.
President Poroshenko of Ukraine stated that more than fifty people had been killed in the attack on Olenivka, labeling it “a blatant Russian war crime, a purposeful mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” in a speech delivered on Friday evening.
Russia’s defense ministry claimed that some of the captured soldiers were from the Azov battalion, which had defended the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol. Zelensky, echoing his foreign minister’s call for intervention, said that the captured soldiers should have been protected by guarantees secured by the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Located roughly 10 kilometers south of seized Donetsk, Olenivka is also relatively near to the frontline. Without impartial access to the location, determining fault will likely be extremely difficult.
A Red Cross representative stated that the organization had asked to visit the facility after the incident to assess the health of the inmates. It issued a statement reading, “Our priority right now is making sure that the wounded receive life-saving treatment and that the corpses of those who died are dealt with respectfully.”
At a news briefing on Friday, UN Deputy Spokesman Farhan Haq said that the organization lacked first-hand information about the attack and that “the matter of access is a problematic subject.” We urge “all the parties on the ground” to conduct a thorough investigation of the incident.
The Russian Defense Ministry said that 40 inmates were killed and 75 were injured in the prison attack, but they blamed Ukrainian forces for using US-made Himars rockets to attack the facility.
A former paramilitary squad with ties to far-right parties is labeled a neo-Nazi organization by Moscow.
Ukrainian security forces denied responsibility for the strike and blamed Russian artillery for destroying the prison to cover up the “torture and murder” of its inmates. Russia has committed a “barbaric war crime,” as the foreign minister of the country, Dmytro Kuleba, put it previously.
In Bakhmut, Ukraine, firefighters put out a blaze in a shelled home.
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Ukrainian military intelligence has called the attack a “deliberate act of terrorism,” and the country’s domestic security agency, the SBU, has claimed that it has intercepted phone calls that point to Russia as the perpetrator. General Prosecutor of Ukraine Andriy Kostin has declared a war crimes inquiry into the incident.
Neither of the competing narratives could be independently confirmed at the time.
Military officers were shown inspecting a facility with a hole in the roof, tangled metal from bunk beds, and blood trails among personal effects in broadcast footage from the area on Russian television. Images of burned bodies and severed limbs were also captured.
Images purportedly showing pieces of a US Himars missile grouped and sitting on what looked like a bench were circulated by Russian media outlets later.
“in which the occupants agree that Russian soldiers are to blame for this disaster,” the SBU claimed to have intercepted. The agency claimed in a statement that intercepted conversations showed Russians may have planted bombs in the facility. Particularly, none of the witnesses heard any missiles going toward the prison. The explosions happened without any warning or signature whistling.
Additionally, the SBU claims that web video footage reveals that in several areas of the building, windows are still intact. What this means is that the walls of the damaged building absorbed the force of the explosion’s blast waves, shielding some of the rooms adjacent to the blast’s epicenter.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an advisor to the Ukrainian president, has demanded a “strict investigation” into the incident and asked the United Nations and other international organizations to denounce it. He claimed that just days before the attack, Russians had moved some Ukrainian inmates to the barrack, implying that it had been planned. According to him, Russia’s accusations were “a classic, cynical, and extensive false flag operation” meant to undermine Ukraine’s government.
For almost three months, the Azov regiment and other Ukrainian battalions held their ground in the steel mill’s complex network of tunnels. By May, they had given up in the face of continuous Russian ground, sea, and air attacks.
Scores of Ukrainian soldiers have been imprisoned in Russian-controlled territories like Donetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine whose separatist government receives support from Russia.
Some have been allowed to return to Ukraine as part of prisoner exchanges with Russia, while the relatives of others have no idea if their loved ones are still alive or will ever return.
The incident on Friday begs the question of where the detainees were being held, under what conditions, and why they hadn’t been relocated to a safer area.
The fate of the deceased is also called into doubt. According to the Geneva Conventions, war prisoners cannot be punished for crimes committed while serving their country in a legitimate military capacity.