Ukraine has accused Russian soldiers of using rape as a weapon of war. These two women say justice is hard to come by

One of the women – who said her husband was murdered by Russian troops on the night of the rape – left her hometown in the Brovary district to save herself and her teenage son from further suffering.

The other woman stayed and is asking the Ukrainian authorities for justice.

CNN spoke with the women in the Brovary District about their heartbreaking experience and agreed not to share their real names — or those of their family members — to protect their privacy. They are just two of hundreds of Ukrainians who have reported alleged war crimes.

“There have been 700 reports since April 1,” said Lyudmila Denisova, the Ukrainian parliament’s human rights ombudsman, including at least one case where a young boy was allegedly raped.

Denisova has the daunting task of gathering evidence of war crimes related to the Russian invasion. A hotline has also been organized to provide free psychological support to victims or witnesses of sexual assault, she said.

“It’s very difficult. You know, someone has to do it, for our fighters on the front line, it’s much more difficult for them. They are in danger every minute. This is my own front line. ”

Rape cases are being investigated by a special prosecutor’s office, Denisova said.

“From the details given to us, we are 100% sure that war crimes have been committed,” said Olexiy Bonuk, head of the department in the prosecutor’s office investigating the case.

The women CNN spoke to said their suffering was compounded by local gossip about what happened to them and the stigma placed on rape victims. But they are determined to fight.

The attack

The women were neighbors in a village in the Brovary district, about an hour’s drive from kyiv.

Both women are married. Both are in their early 40s. And both say they were targeted by Russian soldiers.

“We are the youngest women in this village. And they wanted skinny women,” said one of the survivors, who heard the soldiers talking.

“What that son of a bitch did to me was horrible. He made me…”

The woman, whom CNN calls Nika, walks away. His eyes drop. “I can’t talk about it. I’m ashamed and scared.”

The Russians began to engage Ukrainian troops in the Brovary district on March 1. Nika said she was first approached on March 9 while at home with her husband.

Russian soldiers and their commander came to their house and demanded that she and her husband hand over their phones. Troops left after a Russian soldier fired a shot hitting her house and brushing past their commander, she said.

Two of the young Russian soldiers returned in the middle of the night, Nika said. They separated her from her husband, ripped her off by the hood of her coat, and dragged her out of the house and down the street to a neighbor’s house where another survivor, whom CNN calls, was sleeping. Dasha. Dasha’s husband, daughter and mother, Valentina, also slept in the house.

When the Russians arrived and knocked on the door, “they knocked so hard that they shook everything, even shook the windows,” Valentina said.

Dasha’s husband came out to speak with the soldiers, she said, and Nika was outside listening to the men argue.

In Bucha, Ukrainian families mourn youngest war victims as investigators investigate war crimes

Moments later, Nika said she heard what a cold-blooded murder sounded like.

“There was a short conversation. And then there was a noise, like a bang! A bang like fireworks,” Nika said. “My body was shaking.”

She then saw the Russian soldiers push the body of Dasha’s husband out of sight.

The soldiers then took her and Dasha down the street to a house evacuated during the invasion, Nika said. She heard the soldiers calling each other by name: Danya and Oleg.

“While we were going, Danya was like, ‘Guess what, Oleg? Look who we’re going to fuck!'” Nika said, apologizing for swearing.

A vacant house in the village where Nika says the rape took place.

Even after trying to reason with him, Nika said, she was raped by Danya in the lower part of the house.

Danya told Nika he was 19, she said.

“I told him I was 41, my youngest son is the same age as you. I asked him if he had a girlfriend. He said, ‘Yes. She is 17 years old. But I didn’t sleep with her.”

Nika asked, “Why are you doing this to me? He replied that he hadn’t seen a woman for two weeks.”

Anger rises in her voice as she recounts the conversation. “Can you believe that? It’s crazy.”

Escaping Bullets and Accusations

Both Nika and Dasha survived the attacks. But another threat soon presented itself. The city was under fire during a fierce battle between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Amid the fighting, the women escaped their captors and said the soldiers were too scared to chase after them for long.

They tried to bring a boat to safety.  Then the Russian rockets fell

But escaping their attackers meant traversing an active combat zone.

“There were bullets flying from the forest. I thought, ‘Oh my God, someone is going to see me and kill me,'” Nika said.

At the risk of their lives, the women managed to return to their homes. Dasha had to face not only the horrors of what she had just endured, but also the need to mourn the loss of her murdered husband.

With the village remaining under Russian occupation, Dasha and Valentina attempted to dig a grave, but the ground was too frozen. Gathering all her strength, Dasha went to a Russian commander to ask for help burying her husband, Valentina said.

Grandmother who says she had to help bury her son-in-law after Russian troops shot him dead

“She said, ‘Your guys came at night and killed him. Help us bury him,'” Valentina said.

The Russian commander capitulated, she said, and soldiers helped bury Dasha’s husband in the family’s backyard. A proper burial, however, was out of the question during the occupation.

Worse still, gossip quickly circulated in the village. Neighbors began to accuse the women of being collaborators and getting special favors for sex.

“I didn’t collaborate with them. I was afraid of them. It’s crazy!” Dasha told CNN, exasperated. “Have they seen it? Did they? They haven’t seen it. I can also lay charges.

After being victimized twice – the rapes, then the rumors – Nika said: “God sees everything”.

She intends to do whatever is necessary to help prosecutors prove the assault.

“I want them (the soldiers) to be punished by a judge. They have to decide what to do with them: shoot them, kill them, tear them apart. The bastards.”

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