State Department spokesman Ned Price described the “show trials” expected to take place in Mariupol as “illegitimate and a mockery of justice” in a statement on Wednesday, adding, “The Kremlin is attempting to deflect responsibility for President Putin’s war of aggression and distract from overwhelming evidence of the atrocities Russian forces have committed in Ukraine.”
Ravina Shamdasani, a spokeswoman for the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, also expressed concern for the supposed planned trials.
“We are concerned by reports that the Russian Federation and affiliated armed groups in Donetsk are planning — possibly in the coming days — to try Ukrainian prisoners of war in what is being labelled an ‘international tribunal’ in Mariupol,” Shamdasani said. “While there are few details available, photos and video footage published in the media and on social media appear to show metal cages being built in Mariupol’s philharmonic hall, apparently to restrain prisoners of war during proceedings.”
“We are furthermore concerned that prisoners of war have generally been held without access to independent monitors, exposing them to the risk of being tortured to extract a confession,” Shamdasani added. “There have also been worrying public statements by Russian officials and members of affiliated armed groups labelling Ukrainian prisoners of war as ‘war criminals’, ‘Nazis’, and ‘terrorists’, thereby undermining the presumption of innocence.”
The Russian Embassy in Washington accused the United States of pushing “groundless accusations” against Russia and said the “upcoming trial is aimed at bringing justice to war criminals, among which there are Nazis from the Azov Regiment,” according to CNN. The embassy added that Washington was “clearly afraid of making public the evidence of the inhumane acts committed by members of this terrorist organization.”
Denis Pushilin, leader of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, said that “all war criminals will be court-martialed at the tribunal.”
During the six-month-old war, the U.S. has repeatedly revealed detailed declassified information on the status of the war, often preempting Russian action that it sought to stop.