Olenivka Donetsk POWs Ukrainian

Screenshot from a video shared by Russian propagandists 

Featured, Russo-Ukrainian war 2022-2023

The Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) have said Russia is behind the explosion that reportedly killed 53 Ukrainian POWs in a prison in Olenivka, in occupied Donetsk Oblast.

SBU intercept

The SBU published an intercept of conversations where Russian occupiers confirm that Russian troops were responsible for the explosion in the occupied Olenivka colony.

Judging from the conversations, the tragedy could have happened because of the explosives that were stored in the colony. None of the eyewitnesses heard any rocket flying toward the colony. “There was no characteristic whistling, and the explosions occurred by themselves,” SBU notes. The intercepted conversations also reveal that the Russian troops placed Grad rocket launchers near the colony and fired from them into Ukrainian-controlled territory. However, no return fire followed.

As well, SBU notes, judging from videos shared on the internet after the incident, windows in some rooms of the colony are completely intact, indicating that the epicenter of the explosion was inside the destroyed building, as its walls absorbed the shockwave and “saved” the windows in the neighboring rooms. The SBU says that traces of the explosion on the walls available from the videos indicate that the explosion’s source was most likely internal.

“In general, there is a lot of evidence that the Armed Forces of Ukraine did not launch rocket and artillery strikes in the Olenivka area. Therefore, all statements of Russian propaganda about alleged shelling by the Armed Forces are outright lies and provocation,” SBU notes, adding that it has launched criminal proceedings under Article 438 of the Criminal Code (violation of the laws and customs of war).


The GUR published a separate statement, in which they said the Olenivka blast is a terrorist attack organized by the Wagner PMC under Prigozhin’s leadership. According to the agency, the killing of Ukrainian prisoners in Olenivka was organized by the PMC on the personal instructions of Yevgeny Prigozhin, without coordination with the leadership of the Russian Ministry of Defense.

The GUR states that the explosion was carried out to cover up the theft of funds allocated to the Ukrainian prisoners. According to GUR, 0n 1 August, a commission from Russia was due to arrive at the colony to check how the funds were used and the conditions of their detention. However, the condition of the building did not meet the requirements, so the “problem” was eliminated by destroying the premises with the Ukrainians inside.

The second goal of the terrorist attack was to increase social tension around Ukraine, taking into account the public interest in the captured Heroes of Azovstval, GUR states, referring to defenders of the Mariupol garrison who defended the besieged city from their fortress of the Azovstal steelworks.

GUR added that the building was specially equipped to hold prisoners from Azovstal. Work on the building ended 2 days ago, after which some of the detained Ukrainian defenders were transferred there.


In the morning of 29 July, Russian propaganda media claimed a penal colony in Olenivka, near Russian-occupied Donetsk, where Ukrainian POWs were kept, was shelled. It accused Ukraine of the strike, particularly – of making it with the HIMARS MLRS.

RIA Novosti reported that 53 were killed and 75 injured.

Sources of Ukrainska Pravda in Ukrainian intelligence said that Russians carried out the strike and that POWs who had defended the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol and surrendered in the Azovstal steelworks were for some reason transferred to the barracks that were hit a few days beforehand.

Ukraine’s General Staff said that the strike was made to cover up the torture and murders of Ukrainian prisoners of war, as well as to accuse Ukraine of committing war crimes.

Reports of Russian propaganda media do not mention a single Russian soldier or penal colony worker who was killed or injured in the incident.

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