SSexual violence is the oldest, cheapest and most effective tactic of war and terror in history.” – Pramila Patten, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflict, recently said this. And she added that this crime often traumatizes entire generations and peoples.
Russia is currently using this “tactic” in Ukraine. Wayne Jordash, a lawyer from Great Britain, reports on this. He is deputy head of the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group, an EU, UK and US initiative. His team documents war crimes and advises the Ukrainian Prosecutor General's Office.
Jordash says no one knows exactly how many women and men have been abused by Russian soldiers since the major invasion in February 2022. There are 258 officially known cases, but the number of unreported cases is very high – special representative Patten estimates that usually only five to ten percent of the events in conflicts of this type are known. That would then indicate 2,500 to 5,000 cases in Ukraine. And considering that about half of the territory Russia occupied at the height of its attack in 2022 remains unliberated today, the number may be even greater. Because from where the Russians still rule, very little information is coming out.
Two speak, one is silent. She just can't.
The FAS met three women who themselves suffered sexual violence at the hands of Russian occupiers and their enforcers and now live in unoccupied Ukraine. One did not want her to be reported on and she gave three reasons: firstly, she was not yet emotionally ready herself, secondly, she did not want to harm her relatives in the occupied territories, and thirdly, she feared future legal proceedings through statements in the press to put the perpetrators in danger.
Two other women, however, spoke in detail, and the following text follows their reports. Although their information could not be verified in detail, they correspond to what is known from other sources and there is no reason to doubt them.
The first witness is Lyudmila Huseinova. She is 61 years old and in 2014, the year of the first Russian invasion of Ukraine, she was an employee of an agricultural company in the city of Novoazovsk, which has been under Russian occupation ever since.
Lyudmila Huseinova publicly protested when Vladimir Putin's fighters raised the Russian flag in her city ten years ago. Alexander Borodai, one of their leaders, pointed the barrel of his pistol at her chest with the words “Get away, you bitch, otherwise I'll kill you!” After that, five years passed. She lived under occupation, but on October 19, 2019, she was arrested after gleefully posting a picture of a Ukrainian flag in a chat group. One day men were standing in her apartment. They put a sack over her head, then drove her across the country for hours and took her to a building. She still had the bag over her head. “Take off your clothes!” commanded a voice. Someone hit her, someone touched her body. Then more shocks, it went through a corridor, she stumbled into a room full of people. A woman's voice said: “You can take the bag off now. You are in the Isolazja.”
In the “Isolazja”
“Isolazya” was formerly a factory for insulation materials in the occupied eastern Ukrainian city of Donetsk. But since the Russian invasion it has been a torture prison. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights interviewed several escaped inmates and then wrote a report saying that many of them had been tortured and sexually abused.