April 20, 2024

United Nations rejects Russia’s account of attack that killed 50 Ukrainian prisoners, confirms CNN investigative findings


The United Nations has said evidence does not support Russian accounts of a rocket attack on a camp housing Ukrainian prisoners of war in July 2022.

More than 50 Ukrainian prisoners were killed in the strike that year on a detention center in the town of Olenivka. An extensive CNN investigation published in August last year showed that the Russian story that the camp had been hit by a Ukrainian HIMARS rocket did not stand up to scrutiny – a decision now supported by the findings of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Russian and local officials from the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic said the attack was carried out by the Ukrainian side, using one of the HIMARS rockets recently provided by the US.

The morning after the blast, Andrey Lazarev, who works for the Russian Defense Ministry’s Zvezda media channel, pointed out fragments, one of which included the serial number of a HIMARS rocket in remarkably good condition.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the detention center was “hit by a missile attack from the American HIMARS.”

But a CNN investigation, based on analysis of videos and photos from the scene, satellite imagery before and after the attack and the work of forensic and military experts, concluded that “the Russian version of events is likely a fabrication. There is little chance that the damage to the warehouse where the prisoners were being held was caused by a HIMARS rocket.”

Experts consulted by CNN denied the HIMARS strike on Olenivka – but could not say definitively what killed and injured so many prisoners. The investigation noted that “experts say that most of the signs indicate intense fire, and according to some witnesses there was no sound of an incoming rocket.”

A UN statement released on Tuesday agreed that “the information available and our analysis enables the Office to achieve that [the strike] it was not caused by the HIMARS rocket.”

“The Russian Federation has not provided satisfactory guarantees of secure access to the United Nations to visit the particular site, nor has the United Nations Office for Human Rights granted general requests for access to areas of Ukraine under the temporary military control of the Russian Federation.”

The OHCHR said it was able to “conduct extensive interviews with survivors of the incident at Olenivka and carry out a detailed analysis of the additional information available… Although the exact circumstances of the incident on the night of 28-29 July 2022 remain unclear, the available information and our analysis enable the Office to conclude that it was not caused by a HIMARS rocket.”

The OHCHR added that “based on the available information, it is not possible at this point to establish the specific source of the explosion, nor the direct direction from which a weapon was fired.”

“Survivors and families of injured prisoners deserve the truth, and those responsible for violations of international law to be held accountable,” UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk said on Tuesday.

“Our office 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 compensation. For all those affected by this tragedy, we must do everything we can to ensure that justice is done.”

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