Ukraine: Russia using rape as a 'weapon of war' says Zelenska
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The First Lady of Ukraine has reported Russian soldiers have committed acts of sexual violence in Ukraine with the “permission” of their military commanders. Olena Zelenska, wife of President Zelesnky, described rape as a “weapon” used by Russian forces against Ukrainian civilians. She revealed Ukrainian authorities had intercepted phone calls made by Russian troops which supported her allegations of a leadership “approval” of the brutal campaign sexual attacks.
Speaking on Sky News, poltical editor Beth Rigby asked: “You believe that this is not just some men taking advantage of war to attack women sexually, that this is a concerted weapon of war.”
Ukraine’s First Lady replied: “We are absolutely sure that this is the weapon of war because it is not a number of hidden crimes.
“They are out in the open. We have intercepted calls where they call their close relatives and discuss that.
“Of course it’s such a repeated number of cases, there is so much cruelty there that it leads us to believe that not only it’s a concerted weapon, it is [with] the permission and the approval of army commanders.”
She added: “Of course, that means that, indeed, it is the weapon.”
Asked if authorities within Ukraine had any sense of the number of victims, Ms Zelenska replied: “Every expert we have on sexual violence says it is a drop in the ocean as we’ve already said.”
She asserted that “one hundred documented cases” had been recorded by law enforcement agencies but added that she expected many more would emerge.
Ukraine’s First Lady told Sky News: “The statistics are horrifying. The youngest victim is aged four and the oldest aged 85.
“Of course, we understand that the survivors will only be ready to talk when they have the psychological comfort.”
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During a visit to London on Tuesday, Ms Zelenska told an international conference that sexual violence was being perpetrating in Ukraine “systematically and openly”.
Referring to the Russian military, she said: “This is another instrument that they’re using as their weaponry. This is another weapon in their arsenal in this war and conflict.”
She called for a global response to the brutal crimes of Russian forces as she added: “Sexual violence is the most cruel, most animalistic way to prove mastership over someone.
“For victims of this kind of violence, it is difficult to testify in war times because nobody feels safe.”
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Ms Zelenska accused the relatives of Russian servicemen of encouraging crimes of sexual violence within Ukraine.
She told the conference: “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’.”
The fierce statements from Ukraine’s First Lady follow a UN report on Russian crimes during the invasion of Ukraine.
The report confirmed: “Sexual violence has affected victims of all ages. Victims, including children, were sometimes forced to witness the crimes.”
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