Even for one public opinion saturated by horrors of warthose images taken in the detention center of Olenivkanear Donetskin territory under the control of pro-Russian militias, once again focused on Ukraine, towards the end of July, world media attention. In an industrial hangar devastated by a creepy fire, charred corpses of prisoners of war, all of them defenders of Mariupol and belonging to the so-called Azov battalion, they lay on twisted bunks blackened by flames. Outside, rows of dead bodies exposed to the sun and dressed in camouflage clothing.
Trying to be the first to fix the narrative of the events, the leaders of Russia and the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic They immediately blamed the Ukrainian Army, which, according to their version, had deliberately attacked its own prisoners of war “with HIMARS high-precision projectiles“supplied by the US, to prevent them from confessing “his crimes” to Russian interrogators. As the days go by, Moscow’s theses are being increasingly questioned and even discarded, as military experts agree that the damage verified they are not consistent with the weapon allegedly used, while the testimonies of former inmates confirm details that point to a hurried transfer of the deceased to the scene of the massacre days before, obeying reasons yet to be determined.
“It does not correspond to an attack with HIMARS”, he emphatically rules out in an email to EL PERIÓDICO Tony Roppera freelance military analyst who has your own specialized blog. “There should be a string of detonations” at the site, which would imply “multiple craters,” she continues. If, as the Russian side maintains, “one shell went through the roof, others would have hit the building walls, creating destruction; that’s something that hasn’t happened,” he says. The images provided by Russia show the interior of the building completely charredbut with the walls still standing. In his opinion, “the fire was started manually inside.” And “if there was an explosion”, the analyst concludes, it was caused by “a hand grenade to prove precisely that, that there was an explosion.
Satellite images taken days before the incident show other details of interest to analysts: in an extreme of the prison compound, the earth had been removed. Roper does not rule out that it is about that it is about graves, open in advance of the tragedy, but he does not dare to certify it 100% either. That yes, it is very strange to him the existence, in the photographs after the fire, of bodies on stretchers that hardly had injuries. All this pushes him to consider that at least some of the prisoners “they were already dead before” the incident.
Despite the barrage of questions, there are some certainties about the Olenivka massacre. Civilian inmates who coincided with the soldiers who surrendered in the Azovsta plantl of Mariúpol in May have confirmed to this newspaper that russian officials they assumed responsibility for the prison shortly before they arrived; that many were mistreated and beaten. But above all, they have certified that, until a few weeks before the tragedy, the hangar where the massacre took place was abandoned, being in an industrial zone of the enclosure where nobody approached.
Yevhen Maliarchuk, a businessman arrested in Mariupol in March while trying to bring humanitarian aid into the city, was then held on the second floor of the prison’s disciplinary wing. And he remembers the beating sessions Azov prisoners were subjected to on the ground floor: “We could all hear those creepy sounds, those beatings, those moans, those screams.”
His testimony is corroborated by Anna Vorosheva, also a businesswoman who, like Yevhén, was arrested while trying to enter the besieged city with supplies. Also interned in the punishment section, Vorosheva claims to have heard everything: “They were brought from the barracks; two or three people (each time), the guards beat them and then left. All they asked was: ‘Have you understood what we want to hear from you?’ Then the investigator came to do the interrogation. I think (the beating) was a preparation for something,” says this woman, who does not rule out that they wanted to make “a propaganda video” with them.
Anna and Yevhén were released a few weeks before the massacre. And when they found out what had happened on the news, they reacted strangely. The burning hangar was “in the industrial zone of the colony; no one went there, not even to clean,” Vorosheva stresses. “I spent 100 days in that prison, I was in all the facilities, and I can say that it was an uninhabited area, I think they transferred the prisoners there for some purpose,” Maliarchuk points out.
kyiv talks about terrorism
For the few members of the Azov battalion in Mariupol who have been exchanged for Russians and have been able to return home, what happened in Olenivka is nothing more than the chronicle of a slaughter foretold, a lesson by the Kremlin against some emblematic military whom he hates. Vladislav Zhayvoronok, who has lost many colleagues in the fire, even claims to have heard news of what was going to happen during the time he was imprisoned in Donetsk. This young soldier, 29 years old, wounded during the siege of Azovstal, was transferred unconscious to a hospital in pro-Russian hands when the battalion handed over the position. And there, “every week, nurses, doctors or service people came to us with this news: ‘Yours are shooting at you’; two and a half months before it happened; it was as if they were telling us ahead of time.”
The Kyiv government He is already talking about a war crime and demands an international investigation, while the lack of news and the distrust of any information coming from Moscow terrifies the relatives. Russia has published a dead list with contradictions, and still no permissionboth at International Committee of the Red Cross like to the UNto inspect the place. Sandra Krottevych, sister of Bogdan, a prisoner, has not heard from him since the evacuation of Azovstal. And although his name is not included in the fateful list, she does not trust: “I will only believe that he is alive when I hear his voice.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.