Russian troops are working to clear debris from a bombed-out theater in Mariupol to make way for a parade celebration later this month, Ukraine claims.
The Kremlin is planning to turn the site, where Russian forces destroyed a theater in March that had been used as a shelter for hundreds of civilians, into a hub of “celebrations” on May 9, according to Ukrainian officials. The parade would commemorate “Victory Day,” an annual holiday when Russia celebrates its role in defeating Nazi Germany at the end of World War II.
“Therefore, Mariupol, according to the plans of the racists, should become the center of ‘celebrations.’ To this end, the city is urgently cleaning the central streets from debris, the bodies of the killed, and unexploded ordnance,” Ukraine’s defense agency wrote in a Telegram post. “A large-scale propaganda campaign is underway, during which Russians will be shown stories about the ‘joy’ of locals from meeting the occupiers.”
NEW EVIDENCE ESTIMATES DOUBLED DEATH TOLL IN MARIUPOL IN THEATER BOMBING: REPORT
Mariupol residents are being forced to clear the streets of debris from destroyed buildings and the remains of Ukrainian civilians who died from Russian attacks, according to Petro Andryushchenko, a spokesman for the Mariupol mayor. The workers are being told to work in exchange for food, he said.
The airstrike allegedly carried out by Russian forces on the Mariupol theater, which served as the main bomb shelter for the Ukrainian city, killed close to 600 people, despite early estimates suggesting only half as many died in the attack, according to an investigation by the Associated Press. The bombing is believed to be one of the deadliest attacks to occur during the war so far.
The word of there being plans for a parade has prompted concerns among military officials, who have issued warnings over the last few weeks that the Russian government could use celebrations to expand attacks on the war-torn country. There is also "highly credible" evidence indicating "that the Kremlin may try to hold a sham referendum to try to add a veneer of democratic electoral legitimacy,” Michael Carpenter, ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said on Monday.
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Mariupol has been one of the hardest-hit cities since Russia invaded Ukraine at the end of February, with troops attacking schools, hospitals, and other civilian areas.
About 3,820 Ukrainian civilians have been killed since the invasion began, with another 3,451 injured, according to the United Nations Human Rights Commission.