Every day, Victoria has to walk past the house where she was raped by a Russian soldier, the same age as her teenage son.
Russian troops arrived in her village with two streets, near the Kyiv suburb of Borodyanka, in early March. Shortly thereafter, she said, two of them raped her and a neighbor, killed two men, including the neighbor’s husband, and destroyed several houses.
“If you don’t think about all this, you can live,” Victoria said in an interview in the village on a recent rainy day. “But it’s certainly not forgotten.”
She is cooperating with prosecutors because, she says, she wants the perpetrators to feel the “pain of a lifetime” they left her with. “I want them to be punished,” she said.
Whether they will ever exist is unknown, and it could take years. The rapes were among the many atrocities committed by Russian troops on Ukrainian civilians during the weeks of occupation in the suburbs of Kyiv and elsewhere. But the problems of assault prosecution are daunting: evidence is limited and victims are traumatized and sometimes reluctant to testify about their assault, if they report it at all. The accused soldiers have largely disappeared.
Ukrainian prosecutors say they are investigating thousands of war crimes, including executions and indiscriminate bombing of civilians. Among them, “dozens” are linked to rape, said Kateryna Duchenko, who oversees rape cases at Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office—a low percentage that represents only a fraction of the suffering.