Russian commanders in occupied Ukrainian territories encouraged sexual violence

5 January, 11:43 PM
Bucha of Kyiv region after liberation from Russian troops (Photo:REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra)

Bucha of Kyiv region after liberation from Russian troops (Photo:REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra)

Military commanders of invading Russian forces in occupied areas of Ukraine encouraged the rape of civilians, or even directly issued corresponding orders, The New York Times reported on Jan. 5.

Rape survivors say Russian commanders were aware of their soldiers' actions and even encouraged rape, the NYT writes. UK lawyer Wayne Jordash, who advises Ukrainian prosecutors, said he saw signs of connivance on the part of commanders across the 30 cases he reviewed.

Ukrainian Prosecutor Iryna Didenko, who investigates sexual crimes, said that she has already opened 154 cases of sexual violence, but the real number is likely much higher.

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According to Didenko, psychologists found that one in nine women was a victim of sexual violence in one of the villages in Kyiv Oblast liberated from Russians in early 2022. Hundreds more have been tortured and sexually abused in Russian captivity.

She added that Russian invaders have a clear pattern of behavior when seizing territory: “Ground forces arrive, and rapes start on the second or third day.”

Witnesses said that commanders themselves gave orders to rape or condoned it, by telling their troops to “relax.” In one case Didenko mentioned, the commander told his men, “Okay, go.” After that, the Russians entered an apartment building and discussed how they will beat one woman and rape another.

In another case, eight Russian soldiers raped a man who was stopped at a roadblock. Olha, a 26-year-old woman from Kherson, described how on her eighth or ninth day in Russian captivity, she was tied to a table naked from the waist down, after which the Russian soldier who was torturing her, swore at her for 15 minutes, then threw a jacket over her and let seven other men into the room.

“It was intimidation,” Olha said. “I didn't know what was going to happen next.”

According to prosecutors and local authorities, sexual violence – including rape – was widespread across the torture rooms set up by the invaders.

Prosecutor Anna Sosonska of the Office of the Prosecutor General stressed that evidence of sexual violence by Russians was found in all territories that were occupied by Moscow’s troops: in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, and Kherson oblasts.

Because witnesses describe the same methods of torture and interrogation used by the FSB (Russian security service), prosecutors believe that Russian leadership is responsible for these crimes.

“It’s certainly a system; ... it is part of a policy of genocide, but we need time to prove it,” Didenko concludes.

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