31 July 2022


Russian authorities may have used thermobaric weapons against a prison colony in the occupied Donbas town of Olenivka, resulting in the death over fifty Ukrainian prisoners of war, Volunteer media collective InformNapalm announced on Telegram on July 30.

InformNapalm is also certain that the facility was definitely not hit by the HIMARS multiple launch rocket system, supplied by the U.S. and currently in use with Ukrainian forces.

The outlet says its investigators came to these conclusions by analyzing the nature of the damage to the colony in Olenivka in the photos taken there.

The Russian objective, according to the organization, was to get rid of the evidence of torture and murder of prisoners, as well as to discredit the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

“Russia never wanted to return the defenders of Azovstal to Ukraine, where they would be greeted as heroes,” the investigative community noted.

“Their execution could lead to charges of war crimes and put Russian prisoners of war in Ukrainian hands at risk. At the same time, HIMARS gave Ukrainians hope, so Russia decided to stage the killing of prisoners of war as if they were killed by a GMLRS rocket in order to drown out the joy of Ukrainians from HIMARS.”

The analysts noted that Olenivka is located approximately 15 km from the front line, so it makes no sense to hit such a target with rare and expensive GMLRS rockets, because you can use 105-mm artillery rounds that cost about 0.4% of the cost of the rockets instead.

In addition, Olenivka has for years been a well-known prisoner of war camp run by the Donetsk puppet authorities, and a concentration camp (as well as a penal colony for decades).

“You have to be a Russian troll or propagandist to believe that Ukraine would hit such a target,” the investigators said.

The analysis of the photos published by the Russians from the scene of the tragedy shows that the Russians staged the “rocket attack” incompetently because none of them know how this multiple launch rocket system works.

In particular, after the impact, a damaged building made of concrete bricks with a thin tin roof remained intact. The explosion was so weak that the beds did not move even an inch, not a single brick fell out, and the steel column was not damaged. At the same time, the fire caused enormous damage, InformNapalm noted.

For the sake of comparison, the investigators provide another photo, which shows the consequences of the strike of the GMLRS projectile. As a result of such an impact, walls were torn down, concrete ceilings were crushed, and fittings were torn into pieces.

But definitive proof that it was not a GMLRS rocket is the absence of an impact crater, InformNapalm emphasized. In Olenivka, the investigators did not record a single crater.

“The GMLRS M31 rockets hit a target at a 90-degree angle at Mach 4+ speed, to shatter the roof and explode inside (as well as destroy the secret guidance system, GPS components, and sensors on the end of the rocket),” InformNapalm noted.

“The tin roof of the building in Olenivka is too weak to break through and be triggered by a GMLRS rocket, so if a GMLRS projectile had hit, there would have been a shock-detonation crater in the middle of the room. But it is not there.”

It was also noted there that the M31 GMLRS rockets, given their composition, do not burn the target.

“M31 GMLRS rockets contain 51 pounds of PBX-109, a mixture of 64% RDX and 20% aluminum, and 16% HTPB/IPDI plastic fillers,” said the investigators.

“Aluminum is used to enhance the effect of the explosion, but it is not a thermobaric weapon that burns the target. If a GMLRS rocket had hit Olenivka, there would not have been any burned people inside. The explosion would have torn everyone apart, not burned them alive.”

Thermobaric weapons, known to be used by Russia, burn victims but leave their bodies intact, the outlet added. That is, Russia could have used this weapon to burn people in their sleep. This is possibly confirmed by an inspection of visual damage to the building, the absence of a crater from the rocket impact, and the absence of damage from an explosion.

According to InformNapalm, most likely, the Russian representatives locked the prisoners in the room and shot through the windows with RPO-A “Shmel” or MRO-A thermobaric warhead. These types of ammunitions have been in service with the Russian-controlled Donetsk puppet militias since 2014.

“It was a deliberate killing, just like in Katyn,” InformNapalm concluded.

According to Ukrainian intelligence, on July 29, explosions were recorded in the town’s industrial zone, in a recently constructed building that was intended to be specially designated for holding Ukrainian soldiers who had surrendered at Azovstal. Some of the captured defenders of Ukraine were transferred there just two days prior.

Ukraine’s General Staff accused Russia of attacking its own prison in Olenivka in order to claim that Ukraine was committing war crimes. The General Staff said that the Russians were attempting to cover up their torture and execution of Ukrainian prisoners at the site on the orders of the occupation administration by blaming Ukraine for their murder, instead.

Russian mass media reported that at least 53 captured Ukrainian servicemen had died in the blasts. The following day, the Russian Ministry of Defense published a list of 42 dead prisoners.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General’s Office says that about 40 people died and 130 were injured as a result of the explosions.

Ukrainian ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets has said that the list of names of the dead has not been provided to him. According to him, Ukraine has begun a repatriation process for the deceased, and he has demanded the Russians provide him access to the scene.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Russia of committing a “petrifying war crime” and called for Russia to be declared a terrorist state.

Presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak has demanded a response from the United Nations and international organizations to “the Russian war crime.”

Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate reported that the order to murder the Azov Regiment prisoners of war was given by the nominal owner of the Wagner mercenary company, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef” because his companies used to organize banquets for Russian dictator Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine’s SBU security service published an intercepted conversation that it said confirms that it was the Russians who committed the mass murder of Ukrainian PoWs in the prison colony in Olenivka.

Judging by video clips from social media, the SBU noted, that the windows in some buildings of the prison complex can be seen to be completely intact — this may indicate that the epicenter of the explosion was inside the destroyed building, and was not caused by external shelling.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, which served as a mediator when Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol surrendered, said that they were “familiar with the situation” and offered assistance in the evacuation of wounded Ukrainian soldiers in Olenivka and the free transfer of medicines, protective equipment and materials for forensic medical examinations. The UN has promised to support the investigation of the events in Olenivka.