UN vows to investigate deadly attack on colony with POWs in occupied Olenivka

19 August, 04:22 PM
UN Secretary General António Guterres with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Photo:Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS)

UN Secretary General António Guterres with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (Photo:Ukrainian Presidential Press Service/Handout via REUTERS)

The United Nations plans to send a mission to the occupied Olenivka in Donetsk Oblast, where the Russian military committed a mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners of war. 

UN Secretary General António Guterres announced the upcoming mission at a briefing on Aug. 18 after the meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Lviv, according to Interfax-Ukraine news agency.

The UN chief said that they discussed the investigation of the tragedy in Olenivka, and called what happened "unacceptable".

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"I decided to establish a Fact-Finding mission," Guterres said.

“The Terms of Reference of the mission were shared with Ukraine and the Russian Federation, as well as the make-up of the team. It is my intention to appoint General Carlos dos Santos Cruz of Brazil to lead this mission.”

According to the Secretary General, dos Santos Cruz is a respected officer with more than 40 years of service, who worked in the fields of national and international public security, and also led one of the UN peacekeeping missions. Guterres added that the mission must have safe and guaranteed access to the places where the prisoners are held, and that the same access should be granted to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

During the evening address on Aug. 18, Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that he had called on Guterres to use all UN powers to ensure that the aggressor country fulfills all norms of international law regarding Ukrainian prisoners.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on July 29 that the Russian Federation had struck the prison colony in Olenivka in order to accuse Ukraine of committing war crimes, as well as to cover up the torture of prisoners and executions, which it said were carried out on the orders of the occupation administration and commanders in Russian-occupied Donetsk Oblast.

Russian invasion forces were holding prisoners of war, in particular ones captured in Mariupol, and including Ukrainian soldiers from the Azov Regiment.

Following these soldiers’ surrender in Mariupol in May, the UN and the Red Cross were supposed to have guaranteed the prisoners’ safety.

Russian propaganda media claimed that at least 53 Ukrainian prisoners of war had been killed. The next day, the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation published a list with the names of 42 dead Ukrainian prisoners. Ukrainian officials stated that they had not yet been provided with this data. According to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office, about 40 people died and 130 were injured as a result of the explosion at the prison camp.

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.

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