A report by the newspaper “The Independent” revealed torture, disappearances and forced labor in a prison where the prisoners “disappear”, a prison set up by Russian forces in Ukraine, called “Olinevka”.
The report cited reports of Ukrainians being held in Olinevka, and the names have been changed to protect them.
The long report of the newspaper begins with the narration that “in a field hit hard by frost, separatist soldiers gave the three Ukrainian prisoners a spade and ordered them to dig their graves (…) and the three men – all civilian humanitarian volunteers – were stopped at a checkpoint while trying to rescue personnel. Their families are from the besieged city of Mariupol.
According to this report, “the separatist soldiers, from the Russian-backed Donetsk People’s Republic, took the three blindfolded prisoners to prison.” It quoted a person named “Arkady”, a 31-year-old professional climber, who described the start of his ordeal in March: They told us the men buried there also said they were volunteers, but when their cell phones were checked, they were military.” Arkady was imprisoned in Olenivka for more than 100 days.
Arkady was arrested a few weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Arkady, who is from Mariupol, says he and two friends tried to visit the strategic coastal city for the second time to save their family.
They were stopped by soldiers, taken to an abandoned house where they were beaten, forced to sleep in a pit outside in sub-freezing temperatures, starved and forced to dig their own graves for two days.
“They kept threatening to kill us, we didn’t know if they were going to do it,” Arkady said. “We kept digging.”
Ultimately, the men escaped execution and were instead covered, handcuffed, beaten and taken between several crowded, miserable detention centers. They were eventually arrested in Olinivka, south of the occupied city of Donetsk, according to the newspaper.
Among the thousands of male and female prisoners held in Olinevka were Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered to Russia (the Azov Battalion) in May after a standoff at the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, including, witnesses say, British national John Harding.
The sprawling, dilapidated facility (Olinevka) was not known internationally until the morning of July 29, when an explosion killed at least 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war, and Russia and Ukraine blamed each other for the attack.
Civilian detainees say that once they were captured, they had no direct contact with the outside world.
Arkady, who was released a few weeks ago, told The Independent: “My mother didn’t know anything for almost a month. I only found out about it through someone else who released it.
Oleksiy, the head of a pre-war IT company, was also arrested separately while trying to rescue civilians from Mariupol. He says he lost contact with his family “from day one”, adding: “We were never charged with anything official (…) we disappeared.”
Russia has vehemently and repeatedly denied that its forces, or the separatist forces it supports, violated international law in Ukraine. Instead, it accused Kiev of deliberately committing war crimes to discredit Moscow and win Western support.
But the month-long investigation by The Independent uncovered evidence of possible violations of international law and possible war crimes, including torture, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention and forced labour.
The Independent conducted more than a dozen interviews with recently released civilian prisoners and with family members of those believed to still be held in Olinivka, as well as with activists held and tortured in detention centers in other southern cities, Ukrainian officials, international and local officials, and members of rights groups that monitor missing persons.
Little is known about the Olenivka prison, the information is closely controlled, but it is understood that on average about 2,500 Ukrainians are held there, and according to officials and detainees, the prison was built to house only half that number.
The newspaper quoted four prisoners as saying that “Olinevka was an abandoned building with a lot of rubble, (…) there were no beds and no cooking utensils. Few of the buildings had windows, the walls were broken, there were no electricity. (…) It was a nightmare in the cold.”
A Ukrainian woman tells the details of “ultimate evil” in a Russian prison
A former Ukrainian prisoner transferred In a former Ukrainian prisoner in a Russian prison details the inhumane conditions suffered by the Ukrainian prisoners of war from the Azof battalion and other ordinary citizens who were transferred by Russian forces to the prison outside Donetsk. of ordinary citizens sent by Russian forces to a prison outside Donetsk.
On August 7, a former Ukrainian prisoner in Olenivka told the Guardian about “the inhumane conditions suffered by Ukrainian prisoners of war from the Azof battalion and other ordinary citizens who were transferred by Russian forces to the prison outside Donetsk.”
The Guardian reports that Anna Voroshiva, a 45-year-old Ukrainian entrepreneur, spent 100 days in Olinevka after being detained in mid-March at a checkpoint operated by the pro-Russian People’s Republic of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine .
Amid the cries of tortured soldiers, overcrowded cells, inhumane conditions and a regime of intimidation and murder, Voroshiva recounts how dozens of Ukrainian soldiers were killed late last month while in Russian captivity.
Voroshiva was arrested while trying to get humanitarian supplies to Mariupol, her city under siege by the Russian army. The separatists arrested her and drove her to prison in a crowded police truck, where she was held until early July on charges of “terrorism”.
“This is the ultimate evil,” said Voroshiva, now recovering in France, adding that she had no doubt that “Russia killed Ukrainian prisoners of war.”
Fifty-three prisoners from the battalion were killed in the prison and others were wounded, and Moscow claims that Ukraine killed them with a US-made Hemars precision-guided missile, but satellite images and independent analysis suggest that they were killed by ‘ a powerful bomb was killed. which, according to the newspaper, exploded from inside the building.
The victims were members of the Azof battalion. Until their surrender in May, they defended the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol and held out underground.
The Russian Supreme Court has classified the Ukrainian Azof battalion, known for its defense of Mariupol, a “terrorist organization”, which could lead to its captured fighters being subjected to serious trials in Russia.
The Kremlin and Russian state media accuse the Azof Battalion of being a neo-Nazi group that committed war crimes, and threaten severe punishment for its members.