A day after the attack on a camp with Ukrainian prisoners of war, Russia’s Defense Ministry published a list with the names of 50 dead and 73 injured. The ministry announced on Saturday that the majority of the 193 prisoners of war in Olenivka in the Donetsk region were killed or injured in the attack.
On Friday, the Russian and Ukrainian sides blamed each other for the deaths of prisoners in the town of Olenivka near Donetsk. Russia spoke of rocket fire, Ukraine spread different accounts of what happened.
As of Saturday morning, 48 Ukrainian prisoners had been found dead, and two others had died on the way to the hospital, it said. Medical aid is given to the injured. “All political, criminal and moral responsibility for the bloodbath of Ukrainians rests personally with Zelensky, his criminal regime and Washington as a supporter,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
In the prison, Moscow-controlled occupiers are said to be holding many Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered after months of defending the port city of Mariupol. These included soldiers from the nationalist Azov regiment.
The reports about the dead Ukrainian prisoners of war in Olenivka could hardly be verified. Pictures and videos from Russian sources showed dead people, as well as a dormitory full of bunk beds under a destroyed roof.
However: “The available optical material seems to support the Ukrainian account more than the Russian one,” wrote the US Institute for War Studies (ISW), without definitively committing itself. “Russia is said to have killed dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war,” said EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell.
The Ukrainian general staff already denied on Friday that its troops had fired on the prison. The Ukrainian army does not bomb civilian objects and “especially not places where captured brothers-in-arms are likely to be held”.
Zelenskyj’s advisor Mikhail Podoljak spoke of a “classic, cynical and very well thought-out operation under false flags”. The portal Ukrajinska Pravda quoted alleged sources in the Ukrainian military intelligence service, according to which Russian forces had destroyed the building in the camp during the night.
While the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba spoke on Twitter of a shelling by Russia, the Ukrainian secret services spoke of a targeted demolition by Russian forces. “The explosions occurred in a newly constructed building specially prepared for the prisoners from Azovstal,” Ukrainian military intelligence claimed.
Azovstal is the steelworks in Mariupol where the Ukrainian soldiers were holed up. According to the secret service, the Russian mercenary group Wagner is said to be behind the blast.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the barracks had been fired upon by Himar rocket launchers. The US delivered these multiple rocket launchers to Kyiv just a few weeks ago. Since then, the Ukrainians have used state-of-the-art weapons to destroy many ammunition depots and Russian command posts far behind the front lines.
Analysts now assume that the use of thermobaric weapons, also known as vacuum bombs, could have been involved. However, the information was not officially confirmed. If a Himar had struck, ex-military man Thomas C. Theiner wrote on Twitter, the building would be in ruins. However, most of the masonry is still intact.