Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry slams call by Russian Embassy in UK to execute POWs

30 July, 06:26 PM
Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko (Photo:Oleg Nikolenko/Facebook)

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko (Photo:Oleg Nikolenko/Facebook)

Russian diplomats are accomplices in war crimes in Ukraine and must be held accountable, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Oleg Nikolenko wrote on Twitter on July 30.

“Read this when they tell you Russia must not be isolated,” wrote Nikolenko. “There is no difference between Russian diplomats calling for the execution of Ukrainian prisoners of war and Russian troops doing it in Olenivka. They are all ACCOMPLICES in these war crimes and must be held accountable.”

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Earlier, the Russian Embassy in the UK posted a tweet supporting the violation of the Geneva Conventions and justifying the massacre of Ukrainian prisoners in the occupied Olenivka, Donetsk Oblast.

The tweet stated that the Ukrainian prisoners of war from the Azov Regiment “deserve execution, not by the firing squad, but by hanging, because they were not real soldiers. They deserve a humiliating death."

The claim that the Azov soldiers are “not real soldiers” is false – the unit is part of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The message was published by the Russian embassy the day after the murder of over 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war who had been held in Russian-occupied Olenivka, Donetsk Oblast. At the same time, Russia denies involvement in the massacre of captured Ukrainian soldiers.

The currently known facts about the murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war in Olenivka

On the morning of July 29, Russian media reported the shelling of a prison colony in Russian-occupied Olenivka, Donetsk Oblast, where Ukrainian prisoners who defended Mariupol were imprisoned, including soldiers from the Azov Regiment.

At least 53 Ukrainian soldiers are thought to have been killed in this attack. Kremlin propagandists are pushing the narrative that the Ukrainian side fired at the colony using the HIMARS Multiple Launcher Rocket Systems.

According to the General Staff, the Russians attacked the prison colony in Olenivka in order to cover the torture and murder of prisoners, and also with the aim of accusing the Armed Forces of Ukraine of “war crimes.”

Ukraine’s General Staff denied Russian allegations that the Ukrainian military had struck the prison camp.

The Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry stated that the explosions in Olenivka were carried out by mercenaries of the PMC Wagner on the personal orders of its nominal owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is close to Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

 According to the Main Intelligence Directorate, the explosions occurred on the territory of the industrial zone in a newly built barracks, made specifically for prisoners of war from the Azovstal plant in Mariupol. Some of the defenders of Ukraine were transferred there two days before the tragedy.

Ukraine’s SBU security service also released an intercepted call confirming that the Russians had committed a massacre of prisoners of war in the Olenivka prison colony. They added that, according to a preliminary analysis of the video from social networks, windows were completely intact in some buildings of the colony, which may indicate that the epicenter of the explosion was inside the destroyed building.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said that Russia had committed a “petrifying war crime” and called for Russia to be declared a terrorist state.

The adviser to the head of the Presidential Office, Mykhailo Podolyak, said Ukraine demands a response from the United Nations and international organizations to “the Russian war crime.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which was an observer during the surrender of the Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol, said that they were “aware of the situation” and offered assistance in evacuating the wounded Ukrainian military in Olenivka and free transfer of medicines, protective equipment and materials for forensic experts.

Defenders of Mariupol in captivity: what is known

After two months of urban fighting, often against the superior forces of the Russian invaders, the defenders of Mariupol were forced to retreat to the territory of the Azovstal plant. Even when completely surrounded, they continued to fight against the invaders, but the plant was running out of food, medicine, drinking water and ammunition. In addition, hundreds of wounded soldiers were treated in unsanitary conditions and needed further hospitalization.

The defenders of Mariupol repeatedly appealed to the Ukrainian authorities and the world community with a request to evacuate them from Azovstal. However, Russia didn’t agree to any of the options proposed by Ukraine for rescuing the Ukrainian military in Mariupol.

On May 16, the Azov Regiment issued a statement saying that the defenders of Mariupol had complied with their orders and hoped for the support of the Ukrainian people. Ukraine’s General Staff stated that the commanders of the units located at Azovstal had received an order from the top military leadership to save the lives of their personnel.

Within a few days, the Ukrainian defenders left the territory of Azovstal. The evacuation was monitored by the International Committee of the Red Cross, which recorded the personal data of the Ukrainian soldiers. Some of the seriously wounded Ukrainian soldiers from Azovstal were taken to a medical facility in the occupied Novoazovsk, Donetsk Oblast for treatment, while others were taken to Russian-occupied Olenivka.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stated on June 6 that more than 2,500 Mariupol defenders from the Azovstal plant are in Russian captivity. As Ukrainska Pravda wrote, 2,449 defenders left the territory of Azovstal. As of June 9, they were kept in the territories of Ukraine occupied by Russia.

According to Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar, there was no other way of rescuing the defenders of Mariupol.

The President stated that the captured defenders of Mariupol should be returned to the controlled territory through the exchange procedure. Zelenskyy said that it was not in Russia’s interest to torture the defenders of Mariupol, because they have become "public prisoners."

The release of the Ukrainian fighters is handled by the Main Directorate of Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense. In particular, on June 29, 95 defenders from Azovstal were released as part of the prisoner exchange. Negotiations are ongoing.

The process of returning the bodies of the dead defenders of Mariupol is also underway.

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