According to the UN, Russian soldiers use sexual violence as a weapon of war. Ukrainian investigators are now searching for victims in recently liberated areas of the Kherson region. But most cases would never be reported, investigators said.

Reports of soldiers allegedly raping Ukrainian women have surfaced since the start of Russia’s war against Ukraine. The UN Special Representative for Sexual Violence in Conflicts, Pramila Patten, has now accused Russia of being a “clear military strategy” in war. A special unit from Kyiv is now looking for more victims in liberated areas of the Cherson region, according to a report by the US news site “CNN”.

The 56-year-old Tatiana was raped by a soldier when he and a colleague broke into her brother’s house. The other soldier stayed in the other room, Tatiana tells first the investigators and then the reporters from “CNN”. “I cried and begged him to stop, but to no avail,” she says. “The only thought I had was to stay alive.”

He told her not to tell anyone anything. She even concealed the fact from her husband. She didn’t leave the house for three days, she was too ashamed. However, she then confronted the soldier’s commander, who then called in the soldier’s direct superior. “I punished him severely, I broke his jaw, but the most severe punishment is yet to come.” He asked her if she would mind if the soldier was shot. “It doesn’t bother me, I want them all to be shot,” Tatyana replied.

Sexual violence is used as a weapon in the Ukraine war, Patten told the AFP news agency. It is a “deliberate tactic to dehumanize the victims.” According to Patten, the known victims are between four and 82 years old. Most are women and girls, but men and boys are also sexually abused. According to the UN, 43 criminal proceedings had been initiated by September.

The psychologist Yuliya Dovzhyk from Kyiv suspects a brutal system behind the rapes. “People tell us: When the soldiers came to their village, they first harassed the residents, then they started abusing the people, hitting them,” Dovzhyk told ZDF.

During the two weeks in the Kherson region, the prosecutor and the police officer found six people who accused Russian soldiers of sexual abuse in their door-to-door search. However, most cases of sexual violence go unreported, the police officer said.