Some Russian commanders encouraged sexual violence, lawyer advising Kyiv says

KYIV, Nov 23 (Reuters) – There is evidence that Russian commanders in several cases knew about sexual violence by military personnel in Ukraine “and in some cases encouraged or even ordered it”, a lawyer says. international penalist assisting in the Kyiv war. criminal investigations.

British lawyer Wayne Jordash told Reuters that in some areas around the northern capital of Kyiv, where investigations are most advanced, some of the sexual violence involved a level of organization by the Russian armed forces that ” talks about planning at a more systematic level”. .” It did not identify specific individuals under surveillance.

Unpublished findings by investigators about the alleged role of commanders and the systematic nature of attacks in some locations are among patterns of alleged sexual violence emerging as Russia’s war in Ukraine enters its ninth month.

Jordash, who is part of a Western-backed team providing legal expertise to Ukraine, said it was too early to conclude how widespread the practice was as investigations in recently recaptured areas of the northeast and south are at an early stage. However, the patterns suggest that sexual violence “may be even more frequent” in territories that have been occupied for longer periods, he added, without providing evidence.

Reuters interviewed more than 20 people who worked with alleged victims – including law enforcement, doctors and lawyers – as well as an alleged rape victim and family members of another.

They shared accounts of alleged sexual violence committed by the Russian armed forces in various parts of Ukraine: many included allegations that family members were forced to watch or several soldiers participated or acts were committed under the threat of a weapon.

Reuters could not independently corroborate the accounts. Some of the circumstances – including family members witnessing rape – feature in alleged attacks by Russians documented by a UN-mandated investigative body in a report released last month that the victims were elderly from four to over 80 years old.

In the Chernihiv region of northern Ukraine, a soldier from Russia’s 80th tank regiment repeatedly sexually abused a girl in March and threatened to kill her family members, a court ruling has found of Chernihiv district. The court this month found Ruslan Kuliyev, 31, and another Russian soldier Kuliyev a superior guilty of war crimes in absentia for assaulting residents, according to the judgment.

Kuliyev, who the court said was a senior lieutenant, and the other soldier could not be reached for comment.

Rape can constitute a war crime under the Geneva Conventions which set international legal standards for the conduct of armed conflict. Widespread or systematic sexual violence could constitute crimes against humanity, generally considered more serious, legal experts have said.

Moscow, which said it was conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine, denied committing war crimes or targeting civilians.

Responding to questions from Reuters about alleged sexual violence by the Russian military in Ukraine, including whether commanders knew about it and whether it was systematic, the Kremlin press service said it denies it. “such allegations”. He referred detailed questions to the Russian Defense Ministry, which did not respond.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office says Moscow’s war on Ukraine “aims to exterminate the Ukrainian people” and sexual violence is among Russian crimes “intended to spread a state of terror, to sow suffering and fear among the Ukrainian civilian population”.

“There are indications that sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war,” Pramila Patten, the UN secretary-general’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, told Reuters, citing accounts of circumstances such as the rape in front of family members, gang rape and forced nudity.


Kyiv said it was reviewing tens of thousands of reports as part of its investigations into alleged war crimes committed by Russian servicemen; sexual violence is only a small part of these. The Ukrainian investigation is at the center of multiple efforts to investigate potential war crimes related to the conflict, notably by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.

Evidence that the sexual violence was planned could indicate it was part of a systematic attack or that some level of command was aware, said Kim Thuy Seelinger, ICC adviser on sexual violence in conflict and associate research professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

A woman in the village of Berestianka, near Kyiv, told Reuters that shortly after Russian troops arrived in March, a soldier ordered her to hang a white cloth outside her house. He returned that night with two other Russians, according to the woman, who asked to be identified only by her first name Viktoriia.

She said that one of them, whom she took for a commander because he seemed to be much older and because that is what the others called him, told her that the other two soldiers were drunk and wanted to have fun.

According to Viktoriia, a slender 42-year-old woman, these two soldiers accompanied her to a nearby house, where one of them shot a man as he tried to stop them from taking his wife. The two soldiers then took the two women to a nearby house, where Viktoriia said she was raped by one of them. The other woman was also raped, according to that woman’s sister and Viktoriia. Reuters could not reach the second woman, whose family said she left Ukraine.

When Reuters visited the village in July, spatters of blood were visible where the sister and her mother said the man had been shot. Viktoriia said she cried uncontrollably after her experience and was easily startled by loud noises.

Asked about the women’s rape allegations, which were reported by other media outlets, Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office said there was an investigation into sexual violence by Russian servicemen against two women from Berestianka. , but declined to comment further.

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

Reuters could not establish whether there was a direct link between the alleged attacks and the marking of houses.


Allegations of rape and sexual violence surfaced shortly after Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24 and came from across the country, according to testimony collected by Reuters and the UN investigative body. .

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

Ukrainian lawyer Larysa Denysenko said she represented nine alleged rape victims and all but two allege several 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 had opened dozens of criminal cases involving sexual violence committed by members of the Russian armed forces against women, children and men.

Ukrainian authorities and other experts say the number of victims is likely to be much higher as parts of the country remain occupied and victims are often reluctant to come forward, including fear of reprisals and distrust of authorities.

The UN human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine said in a September report that most of the dozens of alleged cases of sexual violence it documented were committed by members of the Russian armed forces and two by members of the Ukrainian armed forces or law enforcement agencies.

Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Stefaniia Bern in Kyiv and Anthony Deutsch in Amsterdam. Additional reporting by Stephanie van den Berg in The Hague, Christian Lowe in Paris and Dan Peleschuk, Oleh Papushenko and Natalie Thomas in Kyiv. Editing by Cassell Bryan-Low

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