The Times Publishes a Story of a Ukrainian Woman Raped by Russian Soldiers in the Kyiv Region

Last week, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova announced the opening of the first official investigation into the rape of a woman by Russian soldiers following the murder of her husband. The Times journalist Catherine Philp talked to the victim about what happened to her.

In the article, the woman is called Natalya, and her son is called Oleksii. It’s not their real names, they were chosen for security reasons. It all happened to Natalya on March 9 in one of the villages in the Brovary district of the Kyiv region. A 33-year-old woman lived there with her 35-year-old husband and their 4-year-old son.

The Brovary district became one of the first battlefields where Russian troops tried to break through the Ukrainian defense and seize Kyiv. On March 8, the family found out that Russian soldiers entered their village. They hung a white sheet near the door to show that “peaceful people live here and want no trouble”. The next morning they heard a single shot and the sound of someone smashing the gates. They went out of the house with raised hands and saw a group of soldiers, one of whom was still pointing his gun at the killed dog.

“They said that they didn’t know if someone lived here and that they didn’t want to hurt us,” tells Natalya. Afterward, soldiers went looking for petrol for a stolen ATV. Their commander looked at the woman, said his name was Mikhail Romanov, and that they would have probably had an affair in peaceful days. Another guy, Vitaly, said he was sorry for shooting the dog. Mikhail had already looked drunk at the moment. Natalya asked them to leave and not to scare her son. But the commander saw a camouflage jacket in her husband’s car, got angry, and shot up the car. Then he grabbed the keys, got into the car, and crashed it, then left the house.

In the evening, the family heard some noise near the gates. Natalya’s husband went out to check what was going on and left the doors open. “I heard gunfire, the sound of the opening gates, and footsteps in the house,” says Natalya. It was Romanov, who came back with another man in his twenties wearing a black uniform. “I screamed asking where my husband was, then I looked out of the window and saw him lying on the ground near the gates. The younger man put a gun to my head and said that he shot my husband because he was a Nazi.”

Natalya shouted at her son to stay in the boiler room where they were hiding from the shelling. The man ordered her to shut up or “the kid will see his mom’s brains on the floor.” “He told me to strip. Then they raped me one after another. They didn’t care that my son was crying in the boiler room. They told me to lock him up and come back. This whole time, they held a gun to my head and kept mocking me,” says Natalya.

After some time, the two men left the building, and Natalya went to check on her son, who was paralyzed with fear. The men came back in approximately 20 minutes and raped her again. “When they came back for the third time, they were so drunk that they could barely stand. Eventually, they blacked out. I rushed to the boiler room and told my son that we need to run, or they will kill us,” Natalya recalls. They went outside. While Natalya was opening the gates her son stood next to the dead body, but he didn’t realize that it was his father’s.

Even after they escaped to the neighbor’s place, and afterward — to Brovary, Natalya couldn’t brace herself to tell her son that his father was dead. She spent the night in Brovary and then fled to her relatives, who lived near Ternopil. There she met her sister, who convinced her to go to the police.

“I would have stayed silent about what happened to me, but when we came to the police station, I realized that there was no going back. I know that a lot of victims remain quiet because they are too afraid to speak out. A lot of people don’t believe that such terrible things are actually possible. People were telling me that I’m ‘making it all up’,” says Natalya.

Natalya found Romanov on social media. Later, she discovered that he was accused of multiple assaults. Last week, the woman was told that Ukrainian troops shot Romanov in Brovary, but she’s not sure that it’s true. Natalya says that she can’t bury her husband because their village is still occupied. Even after the village is freed, she’s not sure she’ll want to go back.

According to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova, the Russian commander was informed about the suspicion of violating the laws and customs of war. He’s been put on the wanted list, and a request for detention was filed in court.

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