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Ukrainian prosecutor says fear is hampering sex crimes investigations

Ukraine’s newly elected Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova attends an extraordinary session of the Ukrainian Parliament in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday March 17, 2020. (Ukrainian Presidential Press Office via AP)

Ukraine’s prosecutor general said victims of sex crimes at the hands of Russian troops are scared to speak about their experiences, hampering efforts to investigate reports of rape and sexual violence during the war.  

Iryna Venediktova said Monday during a Washington Post live event that her office had started to prosecute two suspects for sex crimes. 

However, she said many victims of these crimes are scared to report them because they fear retaliation from Russian soldiers, particularly those living in areas occupied by Russian forces. 

“They are under huge stress,” Venediktova said. “I just want [to] tell you their words. ‘We are scared because maybe Russians come back and they kill all of us.’ ” 

Venediktova said even victims who have found relative safety remain scared to speak. 

“Victims who are now transferred to the most safety regions, it is western part of Ukraine or even abroad, they are still … not ready to speak with us because they are in stress,” she said. 

Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, there has been a spike in crimes against women and children, including allegations of sexual violence and rape against women fleeing the country, the United Nations has reported. 

Ukraine opened its first investigation into claims of rape against a Russian soldier in late March. Officials said Russian soldiers killed a woman’s husband and then repeatedly raped her in a village outside Kyiv.

Kira Rudyk, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, told CBS News last month said that rape is “happening systematically” in areas occupied by Russia.

“Rape is used as a tool of war in Ukraine to break our spirits, to humiliate us and to show us that we can be helpless to protect our women and children and their bodies,” she said. 

Men, children and elderly women have also been the victims of violent crimes, Venediktova said, adding that individuals should be made to feel safe so they feel comfortable to speak with law enforcement. 

“We as Ukrainian sources, we should create safe conditions for these victims and after that we will see huge numbers of victims who will be ready to speak with law enforcement agency,” she said. 

Venediktova said Ukraine has experience investigating similar crimes after Russia’s 2014 invasion of Crimea.  

“If we come back to our situation in 2014, it was the same situation only in that less maybe scale you know because we had victims who were raped on those territories,” Venediktova said. 

Tags Iryna Venediktova Russia-Ukraine war Russian war crimes

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