Rape is an instrument of war for Russia: Ukraine’s First Lady

For Russians, rape and sexual violence are instruments of warfare, and they talk about it freely and openly since they feel they can avoid responsibility, said Ukraine's First Lady Olena Zelenska during her visit to London.

“Sexual violence is the cruellest, most animalistic way to prove mastery over someone. And it's hard for victims of this kind of violence to testify in times of war because no one feels safe. There is a danger and they fear that the military might come back and do it again,” said Zelenska as she took part in a two-day conference as part of the Initiative for the Prevention of Sexual Violence in Conflict.

She admitted that there are not many ongoing investigations or accusations in relation to the sexual violence committed by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, but she noted that “the greatest success is that the investigation, bringing charges, proving guilt and searching for those who committed these crimes is happening during a war conflict, not after.”

Zelenska stressed that Russians commit rapes and other crimes of sexual violence systematically and openly.

“They are open about this, so it is extremely important to recognize this as a war crime and to hold all perpetrators accountable. From the telephone conversations that we managed to intercept, we see that Russian soldiers are very open about this issue: they talk about it to their relatives. In fact, their wives encourage it,” she reported.

Zelenska appealed for a global response for preventing similar crimes from being repeated in other parts of the world.

Rape and sexual violence committed by Russian soldiers are the main themes at the London conference, with participants also including Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Olha Stefanishina and Attorney General Andriy Kostin.