On July 29, 2022, Russia carried out a deliberate terrorist attack in the Volnovakha colony, blowing up one of the barracks in which Ukrainian prisoners of war were kept. It was an informational psychological special operation of Russian propaganda with the aim of discrediting Ukraine in front of its partners and stopping the supply of Western weapons to the Armed Forces of Ukraine.
The Kremlin issued a statement that Ukraine is killing its military captives, whom they don’t want to let go from prison. However, this crime of Russia turned out to be just as stupid as all the others: even the photographs from the site of the tragedy show that the barrack was blown up from the inside: with explosives or a thermobaric projectile that burned the room. The nature of the destruction, which occurs after the impact of missiles from HIMARS, about which Russian propaganda spoke, has not been recorded. This crime should become one of the primary proofs of the terrorist nature of Russia during the trial of its war criminals.
Russian propaganda always uses crime to discredit its counterpart — this is a typical terrorist war. Russia has never abandoned the most nefarious approaches in an attempt to achieve its goals. A classic example of this is the terrorist attack in the Volnovakha colony: the Russians (most likely the Wagner PMC) blew up the barracks with thermobaric shells, in which there were Ukrainian prisoners of war — the defenders of Azovstal, who surrendered in June 2022 after months of heroic resistance. As a result of the terrorist attack, 53 Azov Regiment combatants were killed, more than 120 were injured to varying severity. Immediately after the incident, the Kremlin officially stated that this incident was the result of a HIMARS strike, which occurred because Ukraine did not want to release its prisoners and was ready to simply kill them.
This crime of the Russian military is an illustrative example of the use of terror as a method of foreign policy pressure and primitive influence on the Russian zombified society. As of July 2022, Ukraine began to receive more and more Western weapons, including the aforementioned HIMARS MLRS, which immediately caused heavy losses to the Russian army on the front lines. Thus, the Kremlin tried to project on the Western community a narrative about Ukraine’s use of Western weapons to kill its own citizens. A somewhat different narrative was being formed for the Russian audience: Ukraine kills its own prisoners and this is proof of its criminal nature. In addition, Russian propaganda demonized the “Azovites” in every possible way, used the odious cliche of “Nazis”, etc. Accordingly, from the point of view of the perception of this crime by Russians, the Kremlin was a priori in an advantageous position, because the vast majority of Putin’s electorate approvingly accepted the news of the death of the «Azovites».
It is worth noting that the International Committee of the Red Cross vouched for the safety of the Ukrainian defenders of Azovstal when they surrendered to Russian captivity. The Ukrainian side sent a request to the ICRC regarding the visit of official representatives of Ukraine to the scene of the tragedy. Granting the ICRC access to prisoners of war is an obligation of the parties in accordance with the Geneva Convention, but the Ukrainian side’s request was rejected. On August 3, 2022, the ICRC stated that it did not provide any security guarantees to the prisoners, as this is not within its competence. The organization only ensured the exit of Ukrainian fighters from Azovstal and registered their data. That is, the ICRC distanced itself as much as possible from this incident and took a neutral position, which was de facto beneficial to Russia. In contrast, almost all Western countries unanimously recognized Russia as the culprit in this tragedy. In particular, E. Macron accused Russian troops of killing Ukrainians. France sent to Olenivka a group of forensic medical experts and a mobile laboratory for DNA analysis. The position of international organizations, in particular, the UN and the EU, was also unanimously pro-Ukrainian.
Russia, in its characteristic manner, commits such crimes when it cannot achieve what it wants by military means. The tragedy in Olenivka is not unique: for example, after a Russian Kh-22 missile hit a residential building in Dnipro, which killed 46 civilians, on January 16, Russia launched an artillery strike on Donetsk, which injured 14 people. This was done in order to «block» the resonance from the tragedy in the Dnipro and to traditionally blame Ukraine.
The tragedy in Olenivka is the essence of Putin’s Russia, which is used to using only violence and terror, organically not perceiving the very possibility of peace or compromise. Such tragic incidents will continue until the aggressor is defeated. In this regard, all of Ukraine is a certain personification of the «great Olenivka», because Russian terrorist attacks have affected populated areas across the country, tens of thousands of peaceful Ukrainians have become victims of Russian crimes. Therefore, during the tribunal in The Hague, such crimes should become the starting point for determining the punishment for Russian war criminals and determining the amount of reparations to Ukraine.
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