Tag Archives: war crime

Over 50 POWs killed. A military accident or a cynical war crime?

British mercenary Aiden Aslin, now a prisoner in the Donetsk People’s Republic, expressed real concern that he may die from the Ukrainian shelling of Donetsk. He has experienced many missile attacks that came close to the prison.
Is he still alive?

Understandably, we are always shocked about the losses of civilian lives during wars. Particularly relevant at the moment in the current war in Ukraine. But I find myself even more shocked by the news which broke last night that over 50 Ukrainian prisoners of war had been killed in a missile attack on their prison barracks prison near the village of Yelenovka in the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR).

I was confused by my emotional reaction. After all, these prisoners were captured in Mariupol where Ukrainian units were using the civilian population as human shields.  Refugees from the city almost uniformly reported incidents of cruelty, looting, rape and even murder – particularly by the ultranationalist Azov Battalion in that city.

Many people might say they deserved to die. But whatever their alleged crimes they deserved their day in court, and the prisoners were being processed to collect evidence for an upcoming war crime tribunal hearing. Some of the collected testimony has been leaked in videos on social media.

But these prisoners were collected together in (presumably crowded) barracks. With no means of escape. Sitting targets shot like fish in a barrel. This explains the high casualty rate – something like 53 deaths, with 75 injuries (many serious) among 193 prisoners (as of this morning). Several prison guards were also killed. This almost seems worse than other reported cases where a smaller number of innocent civilians have died in similar attacks. And there have been many such attacks in Donetsk.

I guess the lack of freedom to take evasive action is a reason for our general abhorrence of crimes against POWs.

Collateral damage?

This could have been an accident – collateral damage inevitable in war. After all, Donetsk has been shelled continually for 8 years. Many innocent civilians, quite a few of them children, have been killed in what looks like indiscriminate shelling by the Ukrainian military.

The British mercenary Aiden Aslin, who was captured in Mariupol, was also kept in this prison camp. He has a YouTube channel which I watch. Strangely, I have got to like the guy. He makes good points. He seems sorry for his military roles in Syria and Ukraine. I don’t think he deserves the death sentence he has been handed down. I hope his appeal is successful.

But in the video above he describes some of the Ukrainian shelling near the prison and his fear that he may die from such an attack before his death sentence is carried out. Rather an ironic thought as he was fighting for the Ukrainians.

I certainly hope he survived. I understand that the prisoners in the shelled barracks were mainly from the Azov battalion or other Ukrainians who were providing evidence of war crimes. So, he may be safe – he didn’t serve in the Azov battalion and is extremely critical of it. I will keep an eye on his YouTube channel to see if he is and what his experience has been.

A cynical war crime?

I hope this is not the case. The deliberate targeting of one’s own soldiers who have been taken prisoner would be the height of cynicism. However, these prisoners were providing evidence which may have implicated the Ukrainian military or political leadership in war crimes. Indeed, some of the leaked testimony refers to soldiers receiving orders from the leadership on how they should torture or kill prisoners, etc.

Perhaps their political or military leadership decided to remove this evidence, no matter how cynical this seems. And no matter that these prisoners had been presented as heroes in Ukrainian propaganda.

One piece of evidence pointing to this possibility is the apparent use of HIMARS missiles in the attack. In the past Ukrainian missile attacks on Donetsk have not been accurate but the recent acquisition of HIMAR systems from the US has made possible pinpoint attacks which may have been the case here.

Confirmation bias is rife – a proper investigation is necessary

I follow The Military Summary Youtube channel which provided a summary of the attack and the way it was reported in Russia and Ukraine as well as the DPR. He is very objective (one could say to a fault) but at least he provides both sides. Here is his latest summary where he discusses the attack

It seems that the Ukrainian are denying their attack (they usually don’t provide reports of such attacks) and are instead going with the fantastical charge that this was a Russian atrocity. That the Russian killed the prisoners to cover up the evidence of torture.

I have been shocked how, during this war, people have been ready to believe anything to protect the honour of their “own side.” They will invent fantastic stories to explain away unpleasant evidence.

But this incident certainly raises the possibility that a very cynical and massive war crime has been perpetrated. The appropriate bodies should collect evidence and enable a proper investigation of the event.

Surely the victims of this attack are owed this – whatever other own crimes in the past.