Russian forces are allegedly planning to display captured Ukrainian soldiers in iron cages during a “show trial” on Ukraine’s Independence Day, according to Ukrainian military intelligence.
The event will take place in the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol, where the Mariupol Chamber Philharmonic is being “urgently remodeled” in preparation for the August 24 display, the Main Intelligence Directorate of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said in a report on Friday. The Ukrainians that will purportedly be displayed in the cages are those who were captured while defending the formerly-besieged Azovstal steel plant.
Newsweek was not able to independently verify Russia’s alleged plans for the Ukrainian Independence Day display. Russia’s Defense Ministry was contacted for confirmation and comment, and Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate was contacted for further information on the “show trial.”
Russia’s siege of Mariupol and its ultimate capture of the city gained widespread attention as thousands of civilian deaths and alleged war crimes were reported by Ukrainian authorities. In May, when Russia claimed full control over Mariupol, Russian authorities said that more than 1,700 Ukrainians, who were defending the Azovstal plant, had surrendered in a period of a few days, the Associated Press reported.
In addition to the iron cages being built on the Mariupol Chamber Philharmonic stage ahead of Ukraine’s Independence Day, several new temporary buildings are also being constructed next to it. The intelligence report did not specify what purposes the buildings were meant to serve. The report also included pictures of what appeared to be partially-constructed cages on a stage.
“To add the appearance of ‘legitimacy’ to this action, the occupiers prepare specially trained ‘witnesses’ and bring in representatives of the [Russian] ‘media,'” it said.
It was not immediately clear what the captured Ukrainians will purportedly be on trial for, but the far-right Azov Regiment that helped defend the steel plant was labeled as a terrorist organization by Russia’s Supreme Court earlier this month. The designation could allow for terror charges to be brought against some of the Ukrainians captured in Mariupol, the AP reported.
The report added that Russians may be planning a “point missile strike” during the trial, though it wasn’t specified if the potential strike would be aimed at the Mariupol Chamber Philharmonic or elsewhere.
Ukrainian intelligence has also accused Russia of planning to attack Ukraine in a “massive shelling event” on its Independence day.
“The threat of massive shelling on the territory of Ukraine with S-300 missiles is obvious. Considering the arrival of several trains [from Russia] before Aug. 20, it is clear that the Russians are preparing to attack Ukraine on Aug. 24,” the Centre for Strategic Communications (StratCom), a Ukrainian NGO, wrote on its website and Telegram channel on Thursday.