Russia’s false flag attack on a POW camp in the occupied town of Olenivka, which killed more than 40 captive defenders of Mariupol, was meant to discredit Ukraine and reduce Western military aid to the country, Andriy Yusov, a member of Ukraine’s coordination headquarters for the treatment of prisoners of war, said on national TV on Aug. 6.
"Actually, from the beginning of this terrible tragedy and terrible farce that we saw from the Russian side, it was a falsification,” he stated.
“From the first reports of the use of, and deliberate shelling with high-precision HIMARS weapons, it has been a special operation against the supply of Western high-precision arms to Ukraine. It was a special operation aimed at destabilizing Ukrainian society and demoralizing Ukrainian prisoners of war. It was a falsification from the very beginning, but the world quickly exposes such things.”
He noted that the events in Olenivka also complicated the negotiations regarding the exchange of prisoners.
“It’s made the negotiations more difficult, it is clear that they were already difficult, in particular because some people in Russia believe that they can dictate the terms – this is not the case," Yusov said.
Ukraine's Main Intelligence Directorate reported on Aug. 3 that the Russian military never intended to exchange the prisoners of war it had captured in Mariupol, and murdered them in order to hide their torture of the POWs.
Earlier, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin stated that, according to international experts, thermobaric weapons were the cause of the explosion in the prison colony in Russian-occupied Olenivka.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on June 6 that more than 2,500 defenders of Mariupol from the Azovstal plant were in Russian captivity. According to the Ukrainian news website Ukrainska Pravda, 2,449 defenders surrendered and left Azovstal, the majority of whom were being held in Russian-occupied Olenivka.
Ukraine and Russia held a large-scale exchange of prisoners on June 29, during which 144 Ukrainian defenders were returned home. Among them were 95 defenders of the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol, including 43 servicemen of the Azov Regiment.