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UN identifies 85 cases of sexual violence committed by Russian troops in Ukraine in 2023

The UN report reveals that sexual violence was often used as a method of torture against Ukrainian men held captive by Russian armed forces and law enforcement authorities.
Protest against sexual violence
Latvian women protest against Russian sexual violence in war. Riga, Latvia, 20 April 2022. source: LSM.lv
UN identifies 85 cases of sexual violence committed by Russian troops in Ukraine in 2023

The United Nations human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine has documented 85 cases of war-related sexual violence against civilians and prisoners of war in 2023, according to the 15th annual Report of the Secretary-General on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence.

The victims include 52 men, 31 women, one girl, and one boy, with sexual violence often used as a method of torture to Ukrainian men during Russian captivity.

The UN reports that they documented the acts of rape against six women in territories of Ukraine under Russian occupation. 

The documented cases of war-related sexual violence include “rape, threats of rape, electric shocks and beatings to the genitals, electric shocks to the breast, threats of castration, genital mutilation, unwanted touching, forced stripping, and nudity,” according to the report.

The Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine also found evidence of sexual and gender-based violence committed by Russian authorities against women, men, and girls in Ukraine.

The UN report states that 10 cases of conflict-related sexual violence were committed by members of the Ukrainian armed forces and law enforcement authorities against eight men and two women, including civilians and prisoners of war.

How UN helps Ukraine deal with sexual violence crimes

Since Russia started its full invasion, the UN has recorded more than 1,000 attacks on healthcare in Ukraine, making it even harder for people to get medical help after being raped.

In response, Ukrainian authorities, with UN support, established 11 survivor relief centers and developed an interactive map of services across the country. The UN also continued to deliver programmes addressing gender-based violence across 24 oblasts and sponsored a psychological support hotline for male survivors.

In June, Ukraine’s government started a plan to fight human trafficking that will last for several years. The UN also helped with a rehabilitation program to support women who survived war-related sexual violence.

UN Special Representative’s on Sexual Violence in Conflict statement

In general, the UN report recorded 3,688 incidents of sexual violence across 21 conflicts in the world and documented a dramatic 50% increase in verified cases of conflict-related sexual violence in 2023.

We meet today… at a time when the world’s resources are being used to feed the flames of conflict, while women and children starve; at a time when military spending has soared to over $2.2 trillion, while humanitarian aid budgets have been slashed; and at a time when weapons continue to flow into the hands of perpetrators, while the vast majority of victims remain empty-handed in terms of reparations and redress,” said Pramila Patten, UN Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, while presenting the findings of the report at the Security Council Open Debate on 23 April. 

Patten mentioned Ukraine once in her speech, saying that the thousands of displaced and refugee Ukrainian women and girls become more vulnerable to human traffickers who are actively seeking to exploit their precarious situation.

Earlier, UN reported about numerous Russian war crimes against Ukrainian civilians and prisoners of war, including torture, sexual violence, murder, and forceful detainment. 

In 2023, Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska revealed that Ukrainian law enforcement identified 171 cases of sexual crimes perpetrated by Russian military forces. However, she stated that the actual number of victims is likely much higher. The First Lady directly accused Russian troops of using sexual violence deliberately as a weapon of war against the Ukrainian population.

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