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Ukrainian women denounce “mass rapes” by Russian soldiers

Photo: Kena Betancur Agence France-Presse Activists demonstrated to denounce the rapes committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, on May 28, 2022, in front of the Russian consulate in New York.

Lucie Peytermann – Agence France-Presse in Paris

Posted at 9:48 a.m.

  • Europe

“Break the silence” so that this “invisible crime” does not go unpunished: Ukrainian victims and associations denounced in Paris the “mass rapes” by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, a “policy systematic” intended according to them to break up the society of this country.

“I am a survivor (of rape, Editor’s note) and I decided to talk about it because this truth could save other women from terrifying experiences,” said Iryna Dovgan with emotion, 62 years old, during a press briefing a few days ago in Paris.

Originally from the Donetsk region, where she lived with her family, the founder and leader of the NGO SEMA Ukraine says she was arrested in 2014, after a pro-Russian separatist movement took up arms against Kiev troops. Accused of supporting the Ukrainian army, she was arrested and subjected to “serious violence”.

Five women testified before the press, recounting the torture and violence inflicted by the Russian army between 2014 and 2023.

All of them are now helping other “survivors” of rape within SEMA Ukraine, at the initiative of this press briefing alongside the association “For Ukraine, for their freedom and ours” and the “Association for the defense of democracy in Poland”.

“In Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the mass rapes perpetrated by Russian soldiers display a desire to destroy Ukrainian society”, aiming in particular to ensure that women no longer have Ukrainian children, denounce these organizations. “These rapes, which began in 2014, number in the thousands, affecting mainly women, but also children and men, civilians or soldiers still detained in Russian prisons. »

« Torture center »

In March, two years after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, UN investigators documented increasing numbers of civilian killings and torture and sexual violence against Ukrainians.

< p>Lioudmyla Housseïnova, human rights activist, remained in her hometown of Novoazovsk after the occupation by Russian troops in 2014. Arrested in October 2019 in Donetsk due to her pro-Ukrainian positions, she was detained in captivity for three years and 13 days in various separatist prisons, including a “torture center”, according to SEMA Ukraine.

“Imagine that you are in a room almost all the time in the dark, that you have been detained for three years, without seeing your loved ones, without medical help, without hygiene. Imagine search operations, dirty hands touching every part of your body,” said Ms. Husseïnova, 62, via video from Ukraine.

“ Imagine that one day someone comes into the room and says: “Today it is you who is going to serve a fighter to give him pleasure”. And all this continues now in the 21st century, on the territory of Ukraine and Europe…”

Ms. Husseinova was released in November 2022 along with others women prisoners, during a prisoner exchange.

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“Thousands” of cases

Precisely quantifying the number of rapes is difficult, because NGOs “do not have access to occupied territories”, observes Iryna Dovgan, who mentions “thousands” of cases.

For its part, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office says it has recorded 301 cases of sexual crimes “committed by the Russian occupiers” since the start of the invasion.

Russia is accused of multiple war crimes in Ukraine, which it systematically denies.

The “true scale of cases of sexual violence is difficult to imagine,” says Nobel Peace Prize winner Oleksandra Matviichuk, Ukrainian lawyer and human rights defender. Because “many people still don’t speak” and “the Ukrainian judicial system is only beginning to establish laws” on the subject, she notes.

In the villages where SEMA Ukraine raises awareness, there previously persisted “a mentality of shame and stigmatization towards rape victims, but we are seeing changes and there is more mutual support,” according to Ms. Dovgan.

“Women are also more willing to speak out because Russian aggression is not ending…and other women are at risk of being attacked: this is our cry and our call for help,” she says.

“This sexual violence is not the consequences of war but a deliberate and systematic policy which is part of a large-scale campaign of persecution against Ukrainian civilians and Ukrainian prisoners of war”, underlined Florence Hartmann during the press briefing.

She was spokesperson and political advisor to the Prosecutor General of the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda (2000-2006).

Citing Germany who has judged cases of sexual violence in Syrian prisons, she pleads for victims to be able to bring their cases before national courts in Europe, under existing mechanisms for universal jurisdiction.

“So that this invisible crime does not go unpunished, we must break the silence,” she says.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116