Russian generals ‘systematically planned and ordered sexual violence’, says war crimes investigator

Reuters couldn’t independently corroborate the accounts. Some of the circumstances – including family members witnessing rape – feature in alleged attacks by Russians documented by a United Nations-mandated investigation body in a report published last month, which said victims ranged in age from four to over 80.

In northern Ukraine’s Chernihiv region, a soldier in Russia’s 80th tank regiment in March repeatedly sexually abused a girl and threatened to kill family members, according to a Chernihiv district court ruling. The court this month found 31-year old Ruslan Kuliyev and another Russian soldier that Kuliyev was a superior of, guilty of war crimes in absentia for assault on locals, the ruling said.

Kuliyev, who the court said was a senior lieutenant, and the other soldier couldn’t be reached for comment.

Crimes against humanity

Rape can constitute a war crime under the Geneva Conventions that establish international legal standards for conduct of armed conflicts. Widespread or systematic sexual violence could amount to crimes against humanity, which are generally seen as more serious, legal specialists said.

Moscow, which has said it is conducting a “special military operation” in Ukraine, has denied committing war crimes or targeting civilians.

In reply to Reuters questions about alleged sexual violence by the Russian military in Ukraine, including whether commanders were aware and whether it was systematic, the Kremlin’s press service said it denies “such allegations”. It referred detailed questions to the Russian defence ministry, which didn’t respond.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s office said Moscow’s war on Ukraine “is aimed at exterminating the Ukrainian people” and that sexual violence is among Russian crimes “intended to spread a state of terror, cause suffering and fear among the civilian population of Ukraine.”

“There are indications that sexual violence is being used as a weapon of war,” Pramila Patten, the Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Conflict, told Reuters citing accounts of circumstances such as rape in front of family members, gang rape and forced nudity.

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