Russian commanders ordered rape of Ukrainian women investigators claim

Russian troops including commanders ordered Ukrainian women to hang white rags outside their homes so fellow soldiers would know who to rape, investigators claim

  • Russian commanders would ‘encourage and order’ troops to rape Ukrainians
  • Evidence that sexual violence by Russian troops involved systematic planning 
  • Ukrainian women have detailed how Russian troops ordered them to hang out white rags outside their homes before they raped them later in the day 

Russian troops including commanders ordered Ukrainian women to hang white rags outside of their homes so that fellow soldiers would know who to rape, investigators have claimed. 

Commanders would ‘encourage and order’ the troops to rape women in Russian-occupied towns in Ukraine throughout the war, British criminal lawyer Wayne Jordash, who is assisting Kyiv’s war crimes investigations, said.

In some areas around the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv, there is evidence that the sexual violence committed by Russian troops involved a level of organisation that it ‘speaks to planning on a more systematic level,’ Jordash said. 

The ‘systematic’ nature of the sexual violence committed by Russian troops provides yet more evidence that Vladimir Putin’s commanders and soldiers have used rape as a weapon of war in the nine months since the barbaric invasion began.

Systematic mass rape campaigns in war use forced impregnation as a tool to ethnically cleanse a nation and psychologically traumatise generations of people.

The children born as a result of this wartime rape are often stigmatised themselves as they become a ‘living reminder of the conflict’, academics say.

Since Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine began, Russian soldiers have raped scores of women and girls – leading some to consider suicide (File image of a woman arranging flowers outside a house where a couple were killed in Kyiv)

Women across Ukraine have detailed horrific sexual violence committed by sexual violence – and evidence has now emerged showing Russian commanders have known or even ordered a systematic rape campaign. 

A Ukrainian woman, from the village of Berestianka, near Kyiv, described how a Russian soldier ordered her to hang a white rag outside her house.

Rape has historically been used as a weapon of war – in Bosnia in 1992, Rwanda in 1994 and Darfur in 2003 to name but a few instances.

Russian soldiers have also been known to use rape as a weapon of war in the past. 

The Soviet Red Army soldiers raped an estimated two million German women after the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich at the end of the Second World War.

The true scale of wartime rape – and now in Ukraine – will continue to remain unknown as many women remain silent about their experiences for fear of being stigmatised.

Systematic mass rape campaigns in war use forced impregnation as a tool to ethnically cleanse a nation and psychologically traumatise generations of people.

The children born as a result of this wartime rape are often stigmatised themselves as they become a ‘living reminder of the conflict’, academics say.

Viktoriia, 42, said he returned that night with a commander and another soldier. She recalled the commander telling her the two other soldiers were drunk and wanted to have fun. 

Viktoriia said those two soldiers walked her to a neighbouring house, where one shot dead a man when he tried to prevent them taking his wife.

The two soldiers then took both women to a nearby house, where they raped both of them. 

Viktoriia said she cried uncontrollably after being raped and remains easily frightened by loud noises. 

Meanwhile, Polish gynaecologist Agnieszka Kurczuk said one of the Ukrainian refugees she treated – a woman from the east who alleged she was raped while her nine-year old daughter was nearby – said it happened after Russian soldiers told women in the village to hang out white bedsheets or towels.

Kyiv has said it is examining tens of thousands of reports as part of its investigations into alleged war crimes by Russian military personnel; sexual violence accounts for only a small part of those. 

Ukraine’s probe is at the centre of multiple efforts to investigate potential war crimes related to the conflict, including by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Allegations of rape and sexual violence surfaced soon after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and have come from across the country. 

Polish gynaecologist Rafal Kuzlik and his trauma psychologist wife Iwona Kuzlik told Reuters they treated seven women this spring who fled Ukraine, mainly from the north and north east, and who described being raped by Russian soldiers.

Ukrainian lawyer Larysa Denysenko said she is representing nine alleged rape victims and all but two allege multiple Russian soldiers were involved and some clients also described being beaten or raped in front of a family member.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General´s office said it has opened dozens of criminal cases involving sexual violence by members of the Russian armed forces against women, children and men.

Ukrainian authorities and other specialists say the numbers of victims is likely to be far greater because parts of the country remain occupied and victims often are reluctant to come forward, including due to fears of reprisals and distrust of authorities.

Last month, a Ukrainian great-grandmother described how a Russian soldier raped and beat her until dawn after he burst into her home. 

Lyudmila, 75, detailed how the Russian soldier punched her so hard that he broke her nose and knocked out two of her teeth before he beat her with his rifle. 

The great-grandmother said the soldier, who was in his 60s, threw her on to the sofa and strangled her before he maimed her after he broke into her home in the village of Myroliubivka, near Kherson.

Lyudmila, her voice cracking with emotion, said the soldier then ripped off her clothes and raped her. 

Lyudmila, 75, detailed how the Russian soldier punched her so hard that he broke her nose and knocked out two of her teeth before he beat her with his rifle. Pictured: File image of a woman walking past a damaged building in Nova Kakhovka, Russian-controlled Ukraine, on Sunday

She still has the scars from where the rapist cut her stomach. ‘The deep ones still haven’t healed,’ Lyudmila told Radio 4’s Today programme. 

Lyudmila’s horrific ordeal – and the testimonies of hundreds of other Ukrainian women – shows how Russian soldiers have used rape as a weapon of war in the eight months since the invasion began.

The 75-year-old, detailing the hours of abuse at the hands of the Russian soldier, said: ‘One night, I heard a very loud knock at my window. I saw a soldier there.

‘When I opened the door, he immediately punched me in the face, knocked out two of my teeth and broke my nose. I was covered with blood.’ 

Lyudmila, who later fled her home with her family, continued: ‘He started beating me in the chest with his rifle butt. He pulled my hair, threw me on to the sofa and began to strangle me.

‘Then he began to undress me and after, he raped me.’

The great-grandmother added: ‘He cut my stomach. Until now, I have scars on my stomach. The deep ones still haven’t healed.’

The soldier beat Lyudmila for hours and sprayed the room with bullets. He left at dawn.

Recalling what she was thinking as she endured the hours of abuse, Lyudmila said: ‘I said goodbye to my children, my grandchildren and my great-grandchildren. 

‘I never thought I would stay alive. Putin and the Russians will never be forgiven. There will be no forgiveness.’

Since Putin’s barbaric invasion of Ukraine began, Russian troops have raped scores of women and girls – leading some to consider suicide. 

A horrifying and damning UN report earlier this month detailed how Russian soldiers gang-raped a 22-year-old Ukrainian mother, sexually abused her husband and made the couple have sex in front of them before raping their four-year-old daughter.

The heart-wrenching report revealed how Russian troops, while occupying a village in the Chernihiv region, also raped an 83-year-old woman in her house in front of her physically disabled husband. 

In many cases, the Russian troops would shoot dead the women’s husbands – or threaten to do so – as soon as they tried to defend their wives and stop them from being raped.

Rape has historically been used as a weapon of war – in Bosnia in 1992, Rwanda in 1994 and Darfur in 2003 to name but a few instances.

Russian soldiers have also been known to use rape as a weapon of war in the past.  The Soviet Red Army soldiers raped an estimated two million German women after the fall of Hitler’s Third Reich at the end of the Second World War.

The true scale of wartime rape – and now in Ukraine – will continue to remain unknown as many women remain silent about their experiences for fear of being stigmatised.

Systematic mass rape campaigns use forced impregnation as a tool to ethnically cleanse a nation and psychologically traumatise generations of people.

The children born as a result of this wartime rape are often stigmatised themselves as they become a ‘living reminder of the conflict’, academics say.

Russia invaded Ukraine in February as Putin ordered what was supposed to be a days-long ‘special military operation’ to topple the government.

But he now finds himself bogged down in an eight-month long war that looks set to continue for months longer at least, and suffering huge losses.

Ukrainian resistance has proved fiercer than almost all observers expected, and has been spurred on by atrocities that Russian troops have committed in occupied areas. 

In April, after Putin’s men withdrew from areas around the capital Kyiv, mass graves with bodies of hundreds of civilians were uncovered.

Survivors of the occupation told how Russian soldiers hunted down anyone suspected of working with the government or military to interrogate and torture – some were ultimately killed.

Others told how soldiers came to their homes, beat or raped them, stole, and then fled as Ukraine’s forces advanced.

Kyiv argues Moscow is fighting a genocidal war aimed at wiping out their national identity by murdering innocents, deporting people into Russia and systemic rapes.

Putin denies that his armed forces are deliberately targeting civilians. 

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