War rape threatens Ukrainian women living in Russian-occupied areas

Women cry while participating in a demonstration in the center of kyiv (REUTERS / Gleb Garanich) (GLEB GARANICH /)

In the first days of the invasion, three Russian soldiers entered a house in one of the occupied areas around kyiv. There lived two women and a minor. One of the soldiers raped one of the adult women in the garage, threatening to rape the girl as well if she resisted him.

The events were repeated after a few days, according to an investigation recently made public by the Ukrainian Police, which has identified the alleged attacker as a 27-year-old soldier from the region of Buryatiain it Far East of the Russian Federation.

Ukraine celebrates Women’s Day today under the threat of the use of rape as a weapon of war in the territories occupied by Russian forces in the east and south of the country, where the invading army roams freely and could be repeating abuses like those that Kiev has been discovering with the liberation of its territories.

171 cases of sexual violence

On March 4, the Ukrainian first lady, Olena Zelenskáannounced that his country’s Prosecutor’s Office has registered a total of 171 cases of sexual violence perpetrated by Russian soldiers in Ukraine. The overwhelming majority of the victims are women, although the list also includes 39 men and 13 minors.

As the wife of the Ukrainian president said, “We know about these cases because these people found the strength to speak up”, but the number of rape victims could be much higher. “How many people suffer without being able to count it, especially in the occupied territories, we don’t know,” Zelenska said.

Forced to live with the rapist

the district of Berislavon the western bank of the river Dniprowhich divides the southern region of Kherson, was liberated by Ukrainian troops on November 14, when the Russians were forced to withdraw to the other side of the river. Another of the cases investigated by the Ukrainian authorities occurred in Berislav.

Ukrainian women during a funeral ceremony (REUTERS / Valentin Ogirenko)
Ukrainian women during a funeral ceremony (REUTERS/ Valentin Ogirenko) (VALENTYN OGIRENKO/)

Since the occupation of Kherson in March 2022, the Russian unit in command of the district has been using the homes and properties of residents of the Berislav district at will, whose residents they terrorized with frequent raids, according to the official Ukrainian investigation. .

During one of them, a Russian soldier threatened to kill the son of the owner of the house and sexually abused her while brandishing a knife. The torment did not end there for the woman. Her attacker decided to stay in her house, according to an investigation by the Ukrainian secret services revealed in February.

Justice for the victims

The return of Ukrainian troops to territories such as the western half of Kherson separated by the Dnipro ends the threat of sexual violence from Russian troops, but it does not mean justice will be served.

In the vast majority of cases, the occupying soldiers retreat to other areas they control, making it impossible for them to be arrested and convicted even if they have been identified by the Ukrainian authorities.

First trial for a war rape

In June of last year he began in kyiv the process to the russian soldier Mikhail Romanov32, who is being tried “in absentia”, accused of killing a man and repeatedly raping his wife during the Russian occupation of brovarskynear kyiv, in March last year.

So that an eventual conviction of Romanov can one day be carried out, the Ukrainian authorities are working to mobilize their international partners in the establishment of international judicial mechanisms that allow those responsible for war crimes to be tried and pay the consequences of their sentences.

Ukrainian women seeking asylum in the United States (REUTERS/Jorge Duenes)
Ukrainian women seeking asylum in the United States (REUTERS/Jorge Duenes) (JORGE DUENES/)

A deliberate strategy?

It is not easy to determine if the rapes and other types of sexual assaults by the Russian occupiers against the Ukrainian women documented by Kiev are a deliberate strategy or the result of the absolute and discretionary control exercised by the invading troops in the territories they conquer.

The Ukrainian authorities are convinced that they are part of the war manual of Moscowand some witnesses to these atrocities claim that Russian commanders give their soldiers permission to rape women as rewards for their efforts in combat.

Iryna Didenko is the Ukrainian prosecutor in charge of investigating sexual violence as a weapon of war. “The ground forces arrive and on the second or third day the violations begin,” she says of the behavior of the Russian occupying troops in the territories they enter.

(With information from EFE)

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