This strike was not a mistake. What was the motive behind the massacre of Azov fighters kept as POWs in Olenivka

July 30, 2022

Russia killed those guys more than once

It is very difficult to stay emotionless, saying how Ukrainian POWs were burned alive by a Russian missile strike in Olenivka, Donetsk region. This is one of those cases during this war when it is extremely difficult for me, as a Ukrainian expert, to produce an unbiased assessment — because Russia killed those guys more than once. At first, they tried to kill them physically. Then there were attempts to organise kind of an international tribunal to legitimise its future status. Well, it is obvious that in the end this cynical decision was made.

I rule out the possibility of a strike by mistake or some incorrect intelligence data that might prompt the Ukrainian side to deliver a strike at this target, because everyone knew that Azov fighters were kept there. I see this as yet another war crime, a gross violation of all international conventions.

We, Ukrainians, now need to restrain our emotions and postpone retribution for a later time. In no way can we transfer our anger to Russian prisoners of war. But in any case, this crime cannot go unpunished.

It is difficult to say what arguments guided those who decided to kill the captured Azov fighters in such a way. For instance, Motorola's "Hero of Russia" comes to mind. This is obviously the level of thinking of the people who are currently rule in the Separate Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Regions. They have the Motorola way of thinking.

Of course, it will be condemned by the international community. It is absolutely obvious and already observed that Russia will attempt to push its narrative claiming that the Azov fighters were killed by the Ukrainians. But in this case, the receptive or at least neutral audience regarding the Russian-Ukrainian war is located outside of Europe. It is highly unlikely that anyone will change his mind here, for this is pure tactics of Russia's partners in HAMAS. Terrorist tactics.

Regarding our Western partners, or more broadly — as I said, it will be condemned. Will any practical steps, additional sanctions follow? Unlikely. Now, there is such an array of these crimes that every individual crime is as if committed by a serial killer. That is, a new murder will not qualitatively change the attitude to this subject.

Oleksiy Melnyk

Co-Director, Foreign Relations and International Security Programmes, Coordinator of International Projects

Born in 1962 in Khmelnytsty Rgn


Royal College of Defence Studies, London, UK (2007)

Air Field Operations Officer School, Biloxy, MS, US (2001)

Squadron Officer School, Montgomery, AL, US (1994)

Defence Language Institute, San Antonio, TX, US (1994)

Chernihiv Higher Military Air Force Academy, Ukraine (1984)


1980 – 2001 — Air Force Active Service (Cadet, Instructor Pilot, Flight Commander, Squadron Commander, Deputy Air Force Base Commander, Participant of two UN peacekeeping operations, Lt.Colonel (Ret)

2001 – 2004 — Razumkov Centre

2004 – 2005 — State Company Ukroboronservice

2005 – 2008 — Ministry of Defence of Ukraine, Head Organisational and Analytical Division — First Assistant to Minister of Defence

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