The Ukrainian military attacked the facility “to hide crimes” the inmates could expose, the republic’s military has claimed
Kiev knew exactly where Ukrainian prisoners of war were being held when it ordered a strike on the detention facility in Donbass, Eduard Basurin, the spokesman for the army of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), claimed.
The attack on the prison near the village of Yelenovka on Friday morning claimed the lives of 53 people, with 75 more injured, according to the DPR. The Russian Defense Ministry confirmed that the facility had held members of Ukraine’s Azov Battalion, whose fighters surrendered to Russian and Donbass forces during the siege of the Azovstal steel factory in Mariupol. The battalion is notorious for having fighters with nationalist and neo-Nazi views.
“I would like to note that Ukraine itself determined the place of detention of prisoners of war, so they knew exactly where they were kept and in what place,” Basurin told journalists without elaborating.
The DPR’s ombudswoman, Darya Morozova, explained that Ukrainian authorities had previously insisted Yelenovka’s facility be a detention center for Ukrainian prisoners of war.
“It was discussed, it was their proposal. That is, they knew perfectly well where the prisoners were being held, at their own request. That’s how cynically they took the lives of 50 of their own officers and soldiers,” she told Izvestia newspaper.
In Basurin’s opinion, the prison was targeted “after the Ukrainian prisoners of war began to talk about the crimes that they had committed on the orders of their commanders.” As the orders to conduct those crimes, according to Basurin, had been issued by Kiev, the Ukrainian “political leadership” ordered the strike on the detention center using US-made HIMARS multiple rocket launchers “to hide those crimes about which Ukrainian prisoners of war began to speak.”
“I would like to note that even the lack of ammunition did not stop them from shutting the mouths of those Ukrainian prisoners of war who began to tell how they killed, where they killed and why they killed the civilian population,” Basurin said.
He echoed the earlier remarks by DPR head Denis Pushilin, who claimed that the Ukrainians “deliberately” targeted the detention center in order to kill Azov members who had been providing accounts of possible war crimes committed by their commanders.
Kiev has categorically denied these allegations and accused “the Russian occupants” of carrying out the strike. According to a statement by the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces on Facebook, Russia’s aim was to accuse Ukraine of committing ‘war crimes’.
Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian President Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.