After dozens of Ukrainian prisoners of war died, kyiv wants investigation into explosion at prison where they were held and information about survivors
After an explosion in a building at Olenivka prison on Friday killed fifty-three Ukrainian prisoners of war and injured seventy-five others, Ukrainian human rights official Dmytro Lubinets said said today that he regrets having to fight to establish the truth about this disastrous event.
Mr Lubinets says he tried to establish a direct link with his Russian counterpart to arrange a joint visit to the prison in Olenivka, a town in eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists. “Dialogue is when there is a conversation between two parties. For now, this is an official request from me, which remains unanswered”, Mr. Lubinets said. He hopes to be able to hear from the surviving Ukrainian prisoners and wishes that the process of restitution of the bodies be initiated. “I can only hope that the principles of humanitarian law remain among the leaders of the Russian Federation”Mr. Lubinets said.
Both sides blamed each other for the attack, saying it was premeditated to cover up atrocities.
Moscow has opened an investigation, sending a team from its investigative committee, the country’s main criminal investigation agency, to the scene. According to the Russian state agency RIA Novosti, fragments of Himars precision rockets, supplied by the United States, were found at the site. A claim that we could not confirm.
For its part, kyiv denies having carried out rocket or artillery fire at Olenivka and accuses the Russians of having attacked the prison to cover up the tortures and executions of Ukrainians that took place there. “Based on the analysis of the photos and videos to which we have access, we can say that it was an explosion coming from inside this barracks”, Mr. Lubinets said. He added that footage from the scene shows only one building was damaged and not all of the windows were blown out – which he said would not be possible if the complex had been bombed.
Ukraine has also asked the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to help investigate the explosion and find out more about the condition of the injured.
According to ICRC spokesman Oleksandr Vlasenko, the organization is currently negotiating with the Russians over the visit to Olenivka prison. ICRC staff want to see all those detained there, ensure that those injured in the explosion receive appropriate medical treatment and examine the bodies of the dead. More than 2,400 soldiers from the Azov Regiment of the Ukrainian National Guard and other military units defending the city of Mariupol surrendered in May on orders from the Ukrainian military and have been imprisoned in Russian camps ever since. The United Nations and the Red Cross had guaranteed, during the surrender of the Ukrainian soldiers, the preservation of the lives of Ukrainian prisoners of war.