Russia began building cages in the Philharmonic Hall in Mariupol. Photos of this can be seen in the Russian media. Experts fear it will be used in mock trials of captured Ukrainian fighters.
Mariupol is currently in the hands of the Russians. Ukrainian politicians and observers fear that the trials may distract from the atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.
Denis Pushlin, leader of the self-proclaimed pro-Russian Donetsk People’s Republic, told Russian media on Wednesday that Ukrainian soldiers will now soon be brought to justice. “The first trial should take place before the end of the summer,” he said.
The exiled mayor of Mariupol, Vadim Boychenko, fears that the Russians may choose August 24 to start. Then Independence Day is celebrated in Ukraine. On August 24, 1991, Ukraine separated from the then Soviet Union. “Moscow desperately wants to show the population a ‘victory’,” Boychenko said from Kyiv on Thursday. “And on the battlefield it doesn’t work.”
It is not clear who can be charged. In June, Russia said it had already launched more than 1,100 cases against Ukrainians for “crimes against peace”. Among them were Ukrainian fighters who held out for weeks at the Azov Steel Plant in Mariupol. According to Boychenko, about 10 thousand Ukrainians – both military and civilians – are held in four Russian penal colonies near the city.
The Kremlin has a long and brutal history of show trials to give a hint of credibility to silence critics, intimidate the population, and impose its own narrative. They were also held in Donbass after Russia annexed it. The United Nations, among others, has already stated that operations are not according to the rules.
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