This morning at 0238 EST, Self Declared Donetsk People’s Republic Deputy Information Minister Bazsonov told his Telegram followers that 40 Ukrainian troops had been killed and 130 were wounded in a Ukrainian HIMARS strike that leveled a prison barracks in Olenivka, Donetsk, Ukraine. Graphic video below:
Over the course of the morning, DPR officials’ social media and Russian state owned media continually updated the death toll which came to a rest at 53 by 0700 EST. Russian state owned media published video of what they are claiming to be HIMARS fragments among the rubble of the prison.
However at 0800 EST the Ukrainian General Staff told media that the Russian Federation had carried out the strike in order to accuse Ukraine of killing its own troops and decreasing morale concerning the use and efficiency of western HIMARS, which have destroyed several dozen Russian command and control centers through Ukraine.
Ukrainian Presidential Adviser Podolyak joined the messaging, calling this act “the most extreme provocation by Russia to date.” The Ukrainian Intelligence Service then published a report showing the POWs had been transferred to those barracks from near Mariupol only days before the strike. The Ukrainian Foreign Minister and Azov Battalion Commander Biletsky added their accusations of Russia targeting the barracks as well.
At 1100 EST, DPR media doubled down on claims and said that the Ukrainian Armed Forces knew Ukrainian troops were at the facility and in fact had requested them to be transferred two days before the strike.
Simultaneously, Ukrainian messaging shifted towards the Wagner Group. The Ukrainian Armed Forces published this audio file reportedly documenting a phone call between group head Prigozhin and Russian military officials planning the strike.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry then doubled down, claiming the Wagner Group had operated outside of the purview of the Russian Defense Ministry to destroy the site before Russian government officials could visit the prison and discover proof of embezzlement of POW funds. By 1420 EST, President Zelensky released a statement in which he called the strike a false flag operation by the Russian Federation and condemned the vile and terroristic killing of POWs.
Presedntial Adviser Arestovych also told press that a Pro-Russian telegram page posted on July 5th, predicting such a strike:
Following that announcement, the Russian Embassy in London published this Twitter post calling for the killing of all Azov Battalion members:
With all of these facts together, it is clear that both sides are jockeying for an information operations win, the Russians attempting to discredit the Ukrainian use of western weapons, and the Ukrainians attempting to paint the Russian Federation as a barbaric commuter of war crimes. Only time and an official third party investigation will be able to tell which is the truth.