“No longer want to live”: a Ukrainian woman recounts her rape by Russian soldiers

ZAPOROJIA | The voice sometimes overwhelmed by emotion, Elena – her first name has been changed – still wants to speak. Appointed to the vindictiveness of Russian soldiers as the wife of a Ukrainian soldier, she was raped for hours by two of them, according to the account she gave to AFP.

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This testimony illustrates the fears of human rights organizations which point to signs of the use of rape as a “weapon of war” in Ukraine.

Met in Zaporozhye, a city where thousands of displaced people thrown on the roads by the Russian occupation of southern Ukraine flock every day, this blonde woman came to wait for a bus to join her four children in Vinnytsia, in the center.

From the first day of the invasion, February 24, she sent them there, far from their home in the Kherson region (south), in the front line against the invasion.

Her husband, who has been fighting pro-Russian separatists for two years in Donbass, eastern Ukraine, sent to the front, Elena explains that she remained alone there to evacuate their property.

But due to the danger on this journey and the presence of Russian soldiers, she was unable to find a vehicle to empty their house and that is where the tragedy occurred, in the afternoon. of April 3, continues this mother.

“Around 3:00 p.m., I went to a grocery store. While I was queuing, Russian soldiers came in and started chatting with customers,” says Elena.

“I couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but I noticed that one of the inhabitants was pointing at me and saying ‘it’s a banderovka'”, she recalls. The man was referring to those nostalgic for Ukrainian ultranationalist leader Stepan Bandera, who collaborated with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union.

“” It is because of people like her that this war broke out “”, he added, according to her, ” ” she is the wife of a soldier “”.

“Without a word”

“I understood that they were watching me so I quickly left the shop. I barely had time to get inside, the two Russian soldiers entered through the door behind me. I didn’t have time to pick up my phone to call for help, or do anything,” Elena says.

“Without a word, they pushed me onto the bed, crushed me with a submachine gun and stripped me,” the young woman said before bursting into tears.

“They hardly spoke, except sometimes to call me a ‘banderovka’ or to say to each other ‘your turn’. And then, around four o’clock, they left because it was time to go and take their shift in their camp.

Elena says she hasn’t spoken to anyone about it yet, not even a doctor or a psychologist, and especially not her husband.

“I am a midwife, I administered first aid myself,” she says. “I will find everything I need when I arrive at my destination, I just want to find my children”.

Asked about her physical and psychological state, she bursts into tears again: “I am disgusted. I no longer want to live.”

Green number

The Ukrainian section of the NGO La Strada, which defends women’s rights, has so far received on its toll-free number “calls concerning seven cases of rape of Ukrainian women and children by Russian occupiers”, the phoned AFP an official of the organization, Aliona Kryvouliak.

But she expects much higher figures when the shock and the shock of the victims begin to dissipate.

“There may be hundreds, even thousands, of women and young girls raped,” said Aliona Kryvouliak.

The first call, on March 4, from Kherson, related to “the gang rape of a mother and her 17-year-old daughter by three men”, the other cases were reported in the Kyiv region “after March 12” , she points out.

“Russian soldiers have committed sexual violence against Ukrainian women and men, against children and the elderly,” said in a statement released this week the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova.

She insisted on the need to collect evidence, while acknowledging the difficulty of collecting it in a country at war, in areas where the mobile telephone or electricity network is disrupted.

But it is undoubtedly a more expeditious justice than Elena imagines for her executioners and their accomplices.

“I am sure that Ukraine will take back these territories from Russian soldiers and that our soldiers will take revenge on them,” she said.

“And I will point the finger at those locals who nominated me. I will point them out to my husband, ”she promises herself, without revealing what punishment would be in her eyes at the height of their crime.

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