Ukraine accuses Russia of planning military May 9 Victory Day parade in Mariupol

Port city is one of the most heavily targeted in the attack by Russia

Smoke rises from the Azovstal steel plant in the city of Mariupol. AFP
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Russia is planning to hold a military parade in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol as part of the country’s celebrations marking victory over the Nazis in the Second World War, Ukraine said.

Kyiv said an official from Russia's presidential administration had arrived in the strategic – but largely destroyed – southern port city to help organise a Victory Day parade.

Russians celebrate Victory Day every year on May 9 with military parades and public events commemorating the anniversary of the Soviet Union's defeat of Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

Mariupol is one of the cities most heavily targeted by Russia in the Ukraine war that Moscow claims is a new fight against Nazism.

Linking the fighting in Mariupol is likely is cause further outrage after Russia earlier this week angered Israel by alleging Adolf Hitler had Jewish blood.

“Mariupol will become a centre of 'celebration',” Ukraine's military intelligence said in a statement on social media.

“The central streets of the city are urgently being cleaned of debris, bodies and unexploded ordnance.

“A large-scale propaganda campaign is under way. Russians will be shown stories about the 'joy' of locals on meeting the occupiers,” it said.

Mariupol mayor Vadym Boichenko told Ukrainian television there were continuing “works” in the city, as if the Russians were preparing for something.

“They are removing signs of the crimes they have committed,” he said.

The Ukrainian military on Tuesday said Russian troops had launched an offensive to rout troops in the Azovstal steel plant shortly after the United Nations and Red Cross confirmed the removal of more than 100 civilians from the site.

The Kremlin denied Russia was storming the plant on Wednesday, but Mr Boichenko said there was “heavy fighting” there and that city officials had “lost contact” with the troops inside with no way of knowing “what's going on, whether they are safe or not”.

In a briefing on the army's plan for May 9, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu made no mention of a celebratory march in Mariupol.

He said parades would take place in 28 cities, involving about 65,000 people, 2,400 pieces of military hardware and more than 400 aircraft.

Moscow says the aim of its invasion is to “demilitarise” and “de-Nazify” Ukraine.

Updated: May 04, 2022, 2:55 PM