There is no evidence that HIMARS missiles were used to strike at a detention center in occupied Olenivka (Donetsk Oblast) almost a year ago when at least 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war were killed, UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk said on 25 July 2023.
Although Russia declined to provide “satisfactory assurances about secure access for the United Nations to visit the particular site” in Russian-occupied Olenivka and refused to grant general requests by the UN Human Rights Office (Office) to access occupied territories of Ukraine, the Office conducted extensive interviews with survivors of the incident at Olenivka and undertaken a detailed analysis of available additional information, Volker Türk stated.
While the Office could not clarify the precise circumstances of the incident in Olenivka, the information available enabled the Office to conclude that the death of Ukrainian POWs was not caused by a HIMARS rocket. The Office did not establish the specific source of the explosion and did not find out “the exact direction from which a weapon may have been fired.” The Office will continue to follow up on the incident consistent with its expertise and mandate.
“Prisoners of war are protected under international humanitarian law. Deaths or serious injury of POWs must be followed up by an official and thorough inquiry on the part of the Detaining Power,” Volker Türk stated. “Our Office has met with the families of the victims and heard their pleas for truth and justice – and indeed, they have a right to truth, justice and reparations. For all those impacted by this tragedy, we must do all we can to ensure justice is done,” Türk added.
On the night of 28-29 July 2022, explosions were reported in the detention center in the occupied town of Olenivka, Donetsk Oblast, where the Russians were holding Ukrainian POWs from Azovstal, the last stronghold of the Ukrainian garrison of Mariupol that fell under Russian control in May 2022.
The Russians claimed that the Ukrainian Armed Forces hit the detention center with HIMARS. However, the General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces stated that the Russians themselves had shelled the detention center to accuse Ukraine of “war crimes” and to cover up the torture of Ukrainian prisoners and executions. The shelling killed at least 50 Ukrainian POWs and injured 130.