Russian show trial of Mariupol Azovstal defenders will likely be held on Ukraine’s Independence Day
It is a war crime to prosecute prisoners of war for carrying out their duties, yet Russia is planning to stage just such a grotesque ‘trial’ of the defenders of Mariupol whom it took prisoner in May 2022. This shocking stunt is to be enacted at the Mariupol Philharmonic, with the men held in cages. In 2014, Russia, via its proxy ‘Donetsk republic’, deliberately staged a forced march of Ukrainian prisoners of war [POW] through occupied Donetsk, timing it to coincide with Ukraine’s Independence Day. According to Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko, similar timing may well be planned for this new travesty.
The Mariupol City Council reported on 6 August that the Russian occupiers were planning a so-called trial of Ukrainian defenders in Mariupol. They posted photos showing the large cages that are being erected on the stage of the Mariupol Philharmonic, one of the few buildings that have survived the months of Russian bombing and shelling. At that stage, the Council suggested that this ‘show trial’ was planned for some time in September, however Boichenko stated on 11 August that the stunt, which he called a demonstrative act of vengeance, was likely planned for Independence Day on 24 August. He suggested that, in the absence of success at the front, they want to present Russians with at least some kind of ‘victory’.
“This judicial travesty is a war crime. After all, there was a specific agreement with the Red Cross and the UN regarding the POWs who had laid down their weapons [on orders from the military command, not of their own choice]. The sides agreed that the POWs would not be put on trial and that they would be moved solely in the direction of Ukraine.”
The Mayor appealed earlier, as have the families of Azovstal defenders, to the international community, the UN and to the International Committee of the Red Cross [ICRC] to intervene and ensure that the prisoners of war are treated in accordance with international law.
Fears are certainly warranted, and have been acute, since the explosion on 29 July that killed at least 53 Ukrainian POWs and injured up to 100 others. Both satellite images and video footage provided by the Russian-controlled militants give serious grounds for doubting Russia’s claim that the men died from an HIMARS-launched Ukrainian missile. The fact that the men appear to have been moved to the particular barracks, the only building to have suffered, as well as Russia’s refusal to provide access to ICRC have only exacerbated suspicions that the POWs were killed deliberately.
Just as with Russia’s ‘trial’ and death sentences against two British and one Moroccan nationals serving as contract soldiers in Ukraine’s Armed Forces, Russia is hiding behind the so-called ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ [‘DPR’] for this show trial and the lack of any resemblance to rule of law.
On 9 August, Denis Pushilin, Russian-installed ‘DPR leader’ confirmed on Russian state television that preparations for a so-called ‘tribunal’ were underway, with “one of the first to be in Mariupol.”
Even before Russia began its full-scale invasion, it was claiming plans to initiate an international ‘tribunal’ against Ukraine. As in 2014, Russia’s Investigative Committee have been lavishing ‘initiating criminal proceedings’ against Ukrainian citizens. The country which has razed Ukrainian cities to the ground and relentlessly bombed schools, hospitals and residential areas is threatening to put at least 220 people on ‘trial’ for supposed ‘crimes against peace and human security’.