Staunton, April 16 – Rape is an all too often feature of war, but the raping of Ukrainian women that has come in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine appears almost systematic, with it following a consistent pattern and appearing to be the result of orders or at least passive support from commanders, medical experts say.
There are no reliable figures on how widespread rape has become in this conflict, these experts acknowledge. Ukrainian President Volodmyr Zelensky has said that there are “hundreds” of victims, although Moscow officials say all such claims are lies that are being spread only to fan Ukrainian hatred and denigrate Russians (zona.media/article/2022/04/17/rape).
Many victims don’t want to talk about what happened to them, and those who are trying to help them are careful not to pry lest they drive away from treatment those who need them now and will need them in the future, the medical experts say. But in places where Russian troops have withdrawn, the emerging picture is stark and horrifying.
Ekaterina Galyant, a clinical psychologist from Kyiv now working in Tallinn, says that she had first thought that there were only a few perpetrators of rape but as she spoke with victims, she learned that “they came in groups and all did the same thing! Maybe they had received orders or had some kind of plan.”
The victims’ recollections appear to be divided into three parts, she continues: at first, … the Russian military went аround their homes and noted down who was living there and whether there were men among them, and confiscated mobile phones. Then, … the soldiers began looting…And about a week and a half before their retreat from Kyiv, “the atrocities started".
All of her sources say “that the military went round the houses in groups of three to five, of various ages: “Most were young soldiers, under 30, accompanied by someone older, a 45 or 50-year-old. Someone their fathers’ age, roughly speaking,” she says. “In the evening they would come into the houses. All the soldiers, as the victims recall, were drunk.”
Reports of rape began to spread “immediately after the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Kyiv region in late March,” Zona.Media reports. But they are also coming in from other places where Russian troops have advanced and Ukrainians have fled. The full story of these crimes is unlikely to emerge anytime soon.
According to Yuliya Gorbunova, a Human Rights Watch researcher now investigating cases of rape in Buch and Brovary, sometimes months and even years must pass “before the true extent of these crimes come to light.”