| 24 March 2023, Friday |

Violence as a strategy

Sexual violence as a method of waging war is a proven and confirmed fact of the Russian Federation’s crimes on the territory of Ukraine. In general, this is one of the manifestations of a crime against humanity, which cannot be excused or forgotten.

The First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, speaking at the United for Justice conference held in Lviv the other day, stated that there have been 171 established cases of sexual violence committed by the Russian occupiers in Ukraine since the beginning of the full-scale invasion. Of course, these are only established and proven cases, unfortunately, this number can be much higher, but the main thing in this situation is not numerical indicators, but the fact that human suffering and pain in Ukraine is increasing every day. Behind such figures – destroyed bodies and fates of Ukrainians.

So, despite the fact that the Kremlin continues to cover itself with the screen of a “special operation”, actually trying on the image of a peacemaker and almost a “savior”, sexual crimes that became a mass phenomenon from the Russian army during the war continue to be documented in Ukraine. And, it is not only about the rape of women, but also crimes committed against men and children. The list includes, for example, forced nudity and torture of a sexual nature. In particular, it is known that at least four large isolators with clear evidence of systematic torture during the occupation were found in Kherson after de-occupation. According to the investigators, mass sexual violence was committed in the detention centers, including rape with batons and electric shocks to genitals.

In general, Ukrainian investigators find evidence of sexual violence by the Russian military in all territories that were occupied and later liberated by Ukrainian forces. Let’s recall one of the most noted cases – the Buchi tragedy, where not only mass burials were discovered after the liberation, but the facts of violence and genocide of peaceful residents of the town were documented. Among the publicized and confirmed evidence there is also the situation with the forced detention of Ukrainian women aged 14 to 25 in the basement by the Russians, where they were regularly humiliated and raped. Later it became known that several victims got pregnant. According to Ukrainian investigators, in most cases, Russian commanders knew about rapes or even encouraged their subordinates to “relax a little.” And these, unfortunately, are not isolated cases, but rather a tradition of the Russian army – in all wars, the Russians used sexual violence as a method of warfare.

Let’s remember the Chechen wars, when federal troops raped women in Kerakh villages, from the point of view of Muslims, this is a terrible insult. Mass rapes were committed by the Wagnerites during the wars in the Central African Republic and Mali, and during the Second World War, the Russian military did not shy away from sexually abuse of women who happened to be on their way to victory in Berlin. It is known that at least 2 million women were raped in Germany alone – such facts are confirmed by the investigation of the British historian E. Beevor. Russians raped even exhausted concentration camp prisoners, Polish and Czechoslovakian women, as well as Russian and Ukrainian women taken to Germany for forced labor. It was an army of rapists who preyed on women wherever they went. Now it is an army of aggressors and terrorists who use sexual violence as a method of warfare. Obviously, in the twisted theory and practice of Putin’s Russian empire, this should demonstrate the strength of his army. But this is by no means a manifestation of strength, but quite the opposite – a manifestation of lowliness and weakness.  Such crimes are intentional and are committed for the sake of terror, demoralization of Ukrainians, and personal pleasure.

Dozens of proceedings have already been initiated in Ukraine regarding sexual crimes committed by Russians, and hundreds of such cases have been reported from international forums, including the UN and the European Council, emphasizing that Russians use sexual violence as a weapon. Sexual violence is the most serious crime in terms of consequences, in Ukraine this form of violence has become part of the genocide and humiliation of the people. Ukrainian investigators were convinced that Russian soldiers were ordered to commit sexual violence or condoned it after hearing numerous accounts of witnesses in various cities of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Kherson regions after liberation. Documenting the crimes of the Russians in the territories that were just liberated shows that the occupying forces use sexual violence systematically and this applies to absolutely every populated place that was under occupation.

Unfortunately, sexual violence still thrives in the heart of Europe in the 21st century. But it should not go unpunished. Every fact of sexual violence by Russians in Ukraine must be investigated and made public as evidence base for the Hague Tribunal. Rape of civilians is unacceptable. Heinous crimes that prove the grassroots essence of the Russian army, which has historically been characterized by such a line of behavior. Not only the Ukrainian state must be on the side of truth and justice, but the entire civilized world must open its eyes to the crimes of the Russian occupiers, which they have been committing for more than a year in an independent country.

The main thing in this process is that the criminals receive a fair punishment. It is important that the disclosure and investigation of sexual crimes take place in cooperation with the UN.

On March 7, at the headquarters of the United Nations, within the framework of the 67th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the Ukrainian delegation will talk about the joint experience of responding to and preventing sexual violence during conflicts, in particular about the role of women’s non-governmental organizations in this area. Undoubtedly, the more people see information about the violent crimes committed by the Russians in Ukraine, the faster and fairer the punishment for the actions of the Russian aggressor will be. After all, unfortunately, there are still those in the world who have not fully decided who is the real aggressor in this situation. The condemnation of rape and other war crimes should set a precedent so that any potential aggressor understands and knows that he will not go unpunished.

Sources: Cyprus Daily News, Home – Сyprus Daily News (