The men and boys have not escaped becoming victims of rape by Russian soldiers in the context of the war in Ukraine, where they have been reported dozens of cases of sexual violence by the invaders that also include women and girls.
According to UN and Ukrainian officials “yet unverified reports of cases of sexual violence against men and boys in Ukraine” have been received. This was stated by Pramila Patten, UN special representative on sexual violence in war, at a press conference in kyiv.
Patten added that it can be particularly difficult for male rape survivors to report the crime. “It is difficult for women and girls to report rape due to stigma, among other reasons, but it is often even more difficult for men and boys to report. We have to create that safe space for all victims to report cases of sexual violence.”
He warned that dozens of cases of sexual violence that are under investigation so far “they only represent the tip of the iceberg”, and urged survivors to come forward and the international community to find the perpetrators and hold them accountable. “Today’s documentation will be tomorrow’s prosecution”, said.
Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said Tuesday that her office had collected reports of sexual violence by Russian troops against men and women of all ages, from children to the elderly.
Speaking at a news conference in the shattered Kyiv suburb of Irpin, one of a group of small towns whose names have become synonymous with Russian war crimes, Venediktova said Moscow had used rape as a deliberate strategy.
“This is, of course, to scare civil society into doing everything to force Ukraine to capitulate,” Venediktova said.
The official warned that there have been few public accounts of sexual violence in Ukraine, as many of the victims have left the country and others who stayed behind are afraid to speak about the experience.
Nevertheless, teams of prosecutors and investigators have been gathering evidence of widespread sexual violence since Russian forces withdrew just over a month ago.
Gang rapes, assaults at gunpoint and rapes committed in front of children These are some of the somber testimonies they have collected from the victims and their families.
The country’s human rights commissioner, Lyudmila Denisova, has officially documented the cases of 25 women who were held in a basement and systematically raped in Bucha, a neighbor of Irpin.
Forensic doctors conducting post-mortem examinations of women buried in mass graves say they also found evidence some were raped before being killed by Russian forces.
UN envoy Patten said she was visiting kyiv because of overwhelming indications of widespread and systematic sexual violence in the conflict, and the risk of trafficking for Ukrainian women if they try to flee the conflict.
“All the warning signs are flashing red in Ukraine, with reports of brutal sexual violence,” he said at a press conference with Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishina.
“I couldn’t stay behind in my office in New York, facing such heartbreaking reports of sexual violence. I am here because we must spare no effort to ensure zero tolerance and consistent consequences for these crimes.” Pattin said.
While the fighting is over around kyiv for now, Russian soldiers still control swaths of territory in the south and east of the country. Amid growing concern about violations there as well, activists are trying to get emergency contraception into Ukrainian hospitals as quickly as possible.
Patten warned that for too long the world had allowed sexual violence to be used as a cheap, silent and effective weapon against entire communities.
“Cheap, because it’s free. Very effective, because it not only affects the victim, it affects entire families, communities”, said. “It is biological warfare. It is a psychological war.”
She said the UN would work with Ukrainian authorities to provide support to survivors, but is also investigating crimes to prepare cases for criminal trial.
Ukrainian investigators have already identified Russian soldiers they say are responsible for war crimes, including sexual violence, and An arrest warrant was issued for a man accused of rape.
There has been international support for the investigations, with French and Dutch forensic experts already on the ground. Britain has also promised to send investigators to help collect evidence of war crimes, including sexual violence.
But many wonder whether the soldiers who have already withdrawn will be prosecuted, since they are under the protection of the Moscow government, which ordered the invasion and denies committing war crimes.
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