Russia is planning a military parade in the embattled city of Mariupol, Ukraine’s intelligence service said on Wednesday.
The parade is set to be held in the south-eastern Ukrainian city on 9 May to coincide with Moscow’s Victory Day Parade, which celebrates its victory over Nazi Germany in the Second World War.
Mariupol “will become the centre of celebrations”, said the Ukrainian Military Intelligence (GUR) in a statement published on Telegram.
“The main avenues of the city are [being] urgently cleaned, the debris and the bodies of the dead removed, as well as the ammunition which did not explode,” it added.
The GUR described the parade as part of a “large-scale propaganda campaign” by Russia to influence the approximately 120,000 people who remain in the bombed-out city, which is now largely under Russian control.
“They are suppressing all evidence of the crimes they committed,” said Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko on Ukrainian television. “They give food to the local population in exchange for their work.”
Audiences in Russia will also be shown footage of Mariupol rejoicing at having Russian troops in their city, it continued.
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu did not confirm the parade would take place in Mariupol when asked about his country’s Victory Day preparations, reported AFP.
But he said: “this year, military parades will take place in 28 Russian cities”, adding “nearly 65,000 people, about 2,400 types of weapons and military equipment and more than 460 planes will be mobilised.”
According to the GUR, Deputy Director of the Russian Presidential Administration Sergei Kirienko has arrived in Mariupol to prepare for the parade.
“The main mission of Mr Putin’s official is to prepare the May 9 ceremonies,” read the intelligence service statement.
The Victory Day parade, occurring every year in Moscow’s Red Square, is an important event in Russia.
Heavy weaponry and missiles will be on display, as Russia shows off its military to the world, while the Russian leader will likely use the podium to celebrate his country’s history and warn the West amid the war in Ukraine.