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Ukraine Woman’s Account Sparks Investigation Into Sexual Violence By Russian Forces

A Ukrainian woman told The Times of London that Russian soldiers killed her husband and then raped her inside her own home in a village near Kyiv, while the couple’s son was crying in the boiler room on March 9.

That evening, Natalya — the pseudonym she used in the interview published Monday — said her husband went out to check their front yard after hearing noise.

A few moments later she said she heard a gunshot.

“I cried out, where is my husband, then I looked outside and I saw him on the ground by the gate,” she told The Times of London. “This younger guy pulled gun to my head and said: ‘I shot your husband because he’s a Nazi.’”

Then, she said, the two soldiers proceeded to repeatedly rape her, while her son was weeping in a nearby room.

Natalya said she recognized one of the two men on social media.

This case will be the subject of an investigation — the first official look into sexual violence allegations against Russian forces, according to The Times of London — which was previewed by Ukraine’s prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova on Facebook last week.

Moscow is contesting the allegations in Venediktova’s post.

“It is a lie,” Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin’s press secretary, told reporters last week, according to an Interfax news agency report cited by The New York Times.

Natalya and her son Oleksii — also a pseudonym — eventually made it to Ternopil, near Lviv in western Ukraine, where her husband’s sister was staying. She said her husband’s sister encouraged her to break her silence over the violence she endured.

“I could have been silent but when we got to the police my husband’s sister made me speak up and there was no going back,” she said. “I understand that many people who have been hurt would stay silent because they are afraid. Lots of people don’t believe terrible things like this happen.”

A United Nations resolution brought forward by then-U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2008 and adopted that year declared that rape and other forms of sexual violence can be considered war crimes.

Maria Mezentseva, a member of Ukraine’s parliament, told Sky News on Sunday that her country will be seeking expertise from the U.K. to support survivors.

“There are many more victims rather than just this one case which has been made public by the prosecutor general,” she said. “And of course, we are expecting many more of them, which will be public once victims will be ready to talk about them.”

Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, accused Russian soldiers of rape at an event in Chatham House in London earlier this month, according to Reuters.

“When bombs fall on your cities, when soldiers rape women in the occupied cities — and we have numerous cases of, unfortunately, when Russian soldiers rape women in Ukrainian cities — it’s difficult, of course, to speak about the efficiency of international law,” Kuleba said.

A report titled “2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Ukraine” published by the U.S. State Department noted several instances of abuse against both men and women linked to the conflict in Donbas in eastern Ukraine, which started in 2014. The report notes most of those instances took place when people were in detention, and none had been documented since 2017.

“Beatings and electric shock in the genital area, rape, threats of rape, forced nudity, and threats of rape against family members were used as a method of torture and mistreatment to punish, humiliate, or extract confessions,” the report states.

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