In declaring Azov Regiment a terrorist organization, Russia is attempting to justify its own war crimes against Ukrainian POWs – the Olenivka atrocity in particular – Ukraine’s GUR military intelligence department said in a Telegram post on Aug. 3.
“That’s why (Russia) is constantly inventing and spreading despicable tales about Azov’s activity, distorting the image of its fighters for domestic and international audiences, even claiming that the elimination of the regiment is one of their war aims,” the GUR message said.
According to the report, after the atrocity at the penitentiary facility in occupied Olenivka, Donetsk Oblast, Moscow is desperate to find a way to justify its blatant war crimes.
The message notes that Azov is a special operations detachment, incorporated into the 12th Brigade of the National Guard of Ukraine, whereas Russian propaganda insists the regiment is some kind of “an informal paramilitary group.”
“It’s not a separate ‘battalion,’ but a unit of Ukraine’s National Guard,” GUR said in its message.
Russian media claimed on July 29 that Ukraine shelled the penitentiary colony in Olenivka, where Ukrainian POWs – including service members from the Azov Battalion – were being held. According to Moscow, the alleged attack was carried out with U.S.-supplies HIMARS rocket artillery.
At least 53 Ukrainians were killed in the explosion, according to the Kremlin. Ukrainian law enforcement estimates the casualties to be around 40 dead and 130 wounded.
Ukraine’s General Staff denied Ukrainian forces were responsibility for the “attack,” suggesting instead that Russia staged a false flag operation in order to conceal the torture and executions of POWs at the facility.
Ukrainian military intelligence said that Russian private military company Wagner Group was behind the atrocity, acting on direct orders from its owner Yevgeny Prigozhin – a close ally of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.
According to the report, the explosions occurred at the recently-erected building, two days after Ukrainian POWs from Mariupol were transferred there.
Based on satellite imagery of the Olenivka detention facility, U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) has concluded that the deadly explosion originated inside the building, dismissing Moscow’s allegations of a Ukrainian HIMARS strike killing the prisoners.