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Press releases Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Türk decries lack of accountability for Olenivka killings

25 July 2023

GENEVA (25 July 2023) – A year after the tragic killing of at least 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war at the penal colony at Olenivka in the Donetsk region of Ukraine that is under the temporary military control of the Russian Federation, justice is still no closer to being served, UN Human Rights Chief Volker Türk said on Tuesday.

“The prisoners of war who were injured or died at Olenivka, and their family members, deserve the truth to be known, and for those responsible for breaches of international law to be held accountable,” he said.

“Our Office has 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 reparations. For all those impacted by this tragedy, we must do all we can to ensure justice is done.”

The Russian Federation provided neither satisfactory assurances about secure access for the United Nations to visit the particular site, nor granted general requests by the UN Human Rights Office to access areas of Ukraine under the temporary military control of the Russian Federation. The Office, however, has been able to conduct extensive interviews with survivors of the incident at Olenivka and undertaken detailed analysis of available additional information, in line with OHCHR’s established methodology.

While the precise circumstances of the incident on the night of 28-29 July 2022 remain unclear, the information available and our analysis enable the Office to conclude that it was not caused by a HIMARS rocket. Based on the information available, it is not possible at this stage to establish either the specific source of the explosion, nor the exact direction from which a weapon may have been fired. The Office will continue to follow up on the incident consistent with its expertise and mandate.

“Prisoners of war are protected under international humanitarian law. Deaths or serious injury of POWs must be followed up by an official and thorough enquiry on the part of the Detaining Power,” Türk added. “Any suspicion of criminal conduct must be promptly, thoroughly, independently, impartially and transparently investigated and those responsible prosecuted.”


For more information and media requests, please contact:

In Geneva
Liz Throssell + 41 22 917 9296 / [email protected] or
Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / [email protected]

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