The Russian occupiers are planning to hold a “show trial” of the captured defenders of Azovstal in temporarily occupied Mariupol. This was announced on Aug. 19 by the Main Intelligence Directorate (MID) of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine. 

“On the Independence Day of Ukraine [Aug. 24], the occupiers plan to hold a show trial of the captured defenders of Azovstal in temporarily occupied Mariupol. For this purpose, the surviving premises of the Mariupol Chamber Philharmonic are being urgently remodeled. On the stage of the philharmonic hall, iron cages are being installed, in which the Ukrainian defenders will be kept. Also, several new temporary structures are being built next to the premises,” the intelligence reports.

Also, according to Ukrainian intelligence, the Russians are preparing specially trained “witnesses” and bringing in representatives of the Russian propaganda media.

On Aug. 15, the advisor to the head of the President’s Office, Mykhailo Podolyak, said that preparations for the “trial” of the captured defenders represents yet another Russian war crime. He emphasized that all the defenders of the plant are combatants who legally defended their country.

Podolyak was principally addressing the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and its head, Peter Maurer. He stressed: “’Mariupol cages’ is an official Russian war crime. It’s time for the ICRC and Peter Maurer to finally remember their appointment and think about their reputation.”

The day before, on Aug. 14, the “First of December” Initiative Group called for an intervention.

“Russia once again violates its agreements – this time with the ICRC and the UN, which promised to carry out a further exchange of prisoners of war – promises which the defenders themselves and the entire Ukrainian society took as guarantees. Russia also violates the Geneva Conventions of 1949, which guarantee the rights of prisoners of war,” the appeal reads.

After months of Ukraine’s fierce defense of Mariupol, several hundred Ukrainian soldiers were captured. Representatives of the Russian government declared many times over their intention to try the Ukrainian volunteer regiment “Azov,” who were a key part of the defense effort.

In addition, the leader of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Denis Pushilin, said that the first “tribunal” of the Ukrainian military in Mariupol would be organized by the end of the summer.

More than 2,000 defenders of the Azovstal steel plant defiantly left the site and into Russian captivity in mid-May. This followed a nearly three-month siege of Mariupol. Their families are still uncertain when – or if – they might return home.

Russia has since stood accused of organizing the mass murder of Ukrainian prisoners – including Azovstal defenders – in a penal colony in Olenivka, Donetsk region, on July 29. At least 50 prisoners are known to have died. It is widely regarded that Russia staged the atrocity in order to blame and discredit the Ukrainian armed forces and to harm the supply of effective weapons to Ukraine.

The Ministry of Defense of Russia claimed that the Ukrainian military struck the prison with HIMARS missiles. However, according to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, the preliminary cause of the explosion in the building could have been a thermobaric weapon and not rocket fire.