Russian forces are planning to dress up thousands of Ukrainian prisoners of war in military uniforms during next week’s Victory Day parade in Mariupol, a Ukrainian official claimed Thursday.
Petro Andryushchenko, an aide to the mayor of the besieged port city, wrote on his Telegram channel that officials have learned that nearly 2,000 Ukrainians are being housed in three filtration camps in the hamlet of Bezimenne, which he likened to “ghettos.”
“These men are held there and they are told that they will be made to wear the Ukrainian [military] uniform and to participate in a so-called ‘war prisoners parade’ in Mariupol because they [the Russians] lack actual prisoners of war,” the advisor said on a national newscast, Ukrainian media reported.
“It will be a grotesque crowd scene for another propaganda image,” he added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky previously compared the camps, where people were said to be processed before being forcibly deported to remote parts of Russia, to Nazi concentrations camps during World War II.
Andryushchenko said that four weeks ago, the invaders forcibly hauled away all the men from suburban Mariupol and brought them to the so-called filtration camps housed in school buildings and a community center, where their passports and identification cards were taken away.
According to the mayor’s aide, the Ukrainian captives, among them people with disabilities, are being held in “horrible” and unsanitary conditions at the makeshift camps, where there is only one sink with cold water for every 1,000 people.
“People are being forced to sleep on the floor in hallways,” he wrote. “No medical aid is being administered.”
Andryushchenko said the first outbreak of tuberculosis has been reported among the captives, leading the Russian forces to turn a school gym into a quarantine ward for the sick, who are being kept there without any medical supervision.
The mayor’s advisor said the Russians have not decided yet whether to use the Ukrainian men as laborers to clear the debris from the bombed areas of Mariupol, or to conscript them into their army.
“Then on Monday, it was announced that the men will take part in the May 9 parade in Mariupol as ‘prisoners of war.’ To that end, the captives will be dressed up as Ukrainian soldiers,” Andryushchenko said. “All this once again shows the reality of the occupation, turning Mariupol into a real ghetto.”
Ukraine’s military defense intelligence agency said Wednesday that Russian soldiers have been busy clearing dead bodies and unexploded bombs from the main streets of Mariupol ahead of the Victory Day celebrations set for next Monday.
According to a statement from Ukrainian military intelligence, people in Russia will be shown videos of residents of Mariupol celebrating the presence of Russian soldiers in their city.
Some 120,000 people remain in Mariupol, a once-prosperous city of half a million inhabitants that has been reduced to rubble by Russian bombs.