'I don't want to live': Woman says Russian troops raped her in Kherson

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By  Karolina Bohacova with AFP
Elena says she was raped by Russian soldiers in Kherson
Elena says she was raped by Russian soldiers in Kherson   -   Copyright  Credit: AFP

Her harrowing case is one of a growing number of accusations of rape against Russian soldiers in Ukraine.

Elena, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, told AFP news agency it happened in the city of Kherson on 3 April.

The mother-of-four was living alone. Her husband, a Ukrainian soldier, was fighting in Donbas, while her children had been sent to the west of Ukraine earlier in the war.

She said a customer in a grocery store had pointed her out to Russian soldiers, telling them she was a soldier’s wife and accused her of being a supporter of Stepan Bandera, an ultranationalist leader and Nazi collaborator against the Soviet Union.

She said she left the store but the soldiers followed her home, forced her to take her clothes off and pinned her down.

"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 ‘Banderovka’ or say to each other ‘your turn’. And then, around four o'clock, they left because it was time to go and take their turn guarding their camp."

During the tearful interview, Elena said she hasn’t spoken about the assault before and had not seen a doctor or a psychologist.

She vowed to find the person who betrayed her and share that information with her husband.

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

Rape is considered a war crime and a breach of international humanitarian law.

The women’s rights NGO La Strada said it had received calls about seven cases of rape of Ukrainian women and children by Russian troops, but it expects to hear more testimonies in the future.

"There could be hundreds, even thousands, of assaulted women and girls," Aliona Kryvouliak of La Strada’s Ukrainian section told AFP.

She said the NGO’s first testimony was taken on 4 March. A mother and her 17-year-old daughter were raped by three men in Kherson. Other cases have been reported from the Kyiv region.

Both Ukraine’s prosecutor general and the International Criminal Court in The Hague have said they will open investigations into reported sexual violence.

UN officials have meanwhile called for more protection for women as more stories of gang rapes, assaults at gunpoint and sexual violence in front of children were collected by investigators.

“The combination of mass displacement with the large presence of conscripts and mercenaries, and the brutality displayed against Ukrainian civilians, has raised all red flags,” said Sima Bahous, the executive director of the United Nations' Women entity.