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Wives of Russian troops 'encourage' them to rape Ukrainian women, Ukraine's first lady says

Sky News logo Sky News 28/11/2022

Ukraine's first lady has accused Russian forces of using rape as a weapon of war in her country as she called for a "global response".

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Olena Zelenska also claimed the wives of Russian servicemen encouraged them to rape Ukrainian women.

The 44-year-old was speaking in London at an international conference to tackle sexual violence during conflicts.

Ms Zelenska, who is married to president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, 44, talked about sexual violence being perpetrated "systematically and openly" by the invaders as the war in her nation drags on since the Russian offensive began in February.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his wife Olena Zelenska attend a commemoration ceremony for people killed during pro-EU demonstrations in Ukraine in 2014 © Reuters Volodymyr Zelenskyy and his wife Olena Zelenska attend a commemoration ceremony for people killed during pro-EU demonstrations in Ukraine in 2014

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"Sexual violence is the most cruel, most animalistic way to prove mastership over someone. And for victims of this kind of violence, it is difficult to testify in war times because nobody feels safe", she said.

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"This is another instrument that they (Russian forces) are using as their weaponry. This is another weapon in their arsenal in this war and conflict. That's why they're using this systematically and openly."

Ms Zelenska said it was "extremely important to recognise this as a war crime and to hold all of the perpetrators accountable".

'Russian troops talk to their relatives about rapes'

"We see that the Russian servicemen are very open about this: they talk about it over the phone with their relatives, from phone conversations we've managed to capture.

"In fact, the wives of Russian servicemen encourage this, they say, 'Go on, rape those Ukrainian women, just don't share this with me, just don't tell me'.

"This is why there has to be a global response to this."

Read more:

Evidence of 'credible allegations' of sexual violence against children by Russian troops

Ukrainian women reveal their rape ordeal and say Russian soldiers must 'be punished'

Last week, an international criminal lawyer helping Kyiv's war crimes investigations claimed there was evidence that Russian commanders were aware of sexual violence by military personnel in Ukraine "and in some cases, (were) encouraging it or even ordering it".

Wayne Jordash said in areas around the capital, some of the sexual violence involved a level of organisation by Russian armed forces that "speaks to planning on a more systematic level".

He did not identify particular individuals under scrutiny.

A UN-backed report published last month said victims of alleged attacks ranged in age from four to over 80, and in some cases family members witnessed rape.

A Russian soldier in March repeatedly sexually abused a girl and threatened to kill family members in northern Ukraine's Chernihiv region, according to a ruling at Chernihiv district court.

The court this month found 31-year old Ruslan Kuliyev and another Russian soldier under his command guilty of war crimes in absentia for assault on locals, the ruling added.


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