Women and girls as spoils of war: Ukraine denounces rapes by Russian soldiers in occupied areas | International
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The withdrawal of Russian troops from the outskirts of kyiv to concentrate their offensive in southern and eastern Ukraine has not only left images of dead civilians and bombed-out buildings, but also an increase in reports of sexual violence against women. The Ukrainian Ombudsman, Liudmila Denisova; the mayor of the Ukrainian town of Bucha, Anatolii Fedoruk; the UN agency dedicated to women and NGOs such as La Strada or Human Rights Watch have increasingly echoed proven cases or complaints of sexual assault by the Russian military.
The mayor of Bucha has confirmed this Tuesday that the Russian forces sexually abused 25 girls and adolescents, between 11 and 14 years old, during the month that they were locked in a basement in the town, which has become an icon of horror due to the images of dead civilians after the Russian withdrawal. Nine of them became pregnant, according to Denisova’s account to the newspaper New York Times that Fedoruk has confirmed. The mayor did not want to delve into the subject out of respect for the privacy of the minors who were attacked. “I have details, but I can’t share them,” he declared at a press conference in kyiv. In addition, he has revealed that, in a separate case, a guard was raped and later killed, also in Bucha.
“We are hearing more and more [denuncias] of rape and sexual violence. These allegations must be independently investigated to ensure justice and accountability,” said Sima Bahous, executive director of UN Women, the agency dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women, in an intervention before the Security Council. United Nations
Bahous told this body that the combination of massive population displacements (90% of the refugees are women and children), the “large presence of soldiers and mercenaries” and the “brutality they have shown against Ukrainian civilians” have “sounded all alarms. The presence of mercenaries and the lack of cohesion between combatants on the same side – two elements apparently present in the Russian case – tend to increase the number of rapes in times of conflict.
Katerina Cherepakha, president of the Ukrainian branch of La Strada, an NGO that works in the fields of sexual violence and human trafficking, called for the allegations to be taken seriously. “It’s just the tip of the iceberg. We know and we see – and we want you to hear our voices – that the Russian invaders in Ukraine are now using violence and rape as a weapon of war in Ukraine,” she said in a video conference address to the Council.
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Other elements point to the accusations, which EL PAÍS has not been able to confirm independently. The NGO Human Rights Watch denounced on April 3 that a Russian soldier repeatedly raped and beat a 31-year-old woman at a school in the village of Malaya Rohan, in the Kharkov region (east of the country). A day earlier, photographer Mikhail Palinchak posted on Twitter the image of a bundle under a blanket on the shoulder of a road 20 kilometers from kyiv. He accompanied her with a message in which he explained that they were the naked and burned corpses of four or five women. Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitro Kuleba spoke last month in the abstract of “numerous” violations of Ukraine by Russian forces.
“Women don’t usually talk openly about sexual violence, particularly during war,” says Sasha Kantser, from the NGO Taller Feminista, to explain why they don’t collect rape figures. “There is not enough data out there objectively to make a statistic. Sexual assaults are and will continue to be underreported until the war is over.”
The Russian Defense Ministry has denied the accusations, which it considers an attempt by Washington to spread false information for propaganda purposes. “The United States, which has many years of experience in organizing provocations with human victims, continues its campaign to create and promote false evidence,” he said.
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