Ukranian woman ‘raped by teenage Russian soldier’ as she sheltered in school

The woman was also stabbed during the attack in a village near Kharkiv. Residents were told the soldier responsible would be executed by his comrades, reports Kim Sengupta from Mala Rohan

<p>Ukranian troops drive a captured Russian military vehicle after retaking the village of Mala Rohan, east of Kharkiv</p>

Ukranian troops drive a captured Russian military vehicle after retaking the village of Mala Rohan, east of Kharkiv

A young Ukrainian woman was raped and stabbed in a vicious attack, it has been claimed, after the village where she lived was occupied by Russian troops. The claim comes amid deepening concern over reports of sexual violence as the war enters its second month.

The mother of the victim has made a video in which she talks about what happened to her daughter, who has been left traumatised by her ordeal. Neighbours of the family told The Independent separately about the assault, and also what had supposedly happened to the Russian soldier accused of carrying it out.

The rape took place in Mala Rohan, a village near Kharkiv, northeastern Ukraine, which was seized by Russian forces on 25 February, the day after Vladimir Putin’s invasion began.

The 27-year-old victim, who is the mother of a five-year-old girl, also suffered knife wounds during the sustained sexual assault, which began after a drunken Russian soldier burst into a school where people had taken refuge during fierce fighting.

The village was retaken by Ukrainian forces this week in a counter-offensive to drive back Russian troops, who have been trying to capture Kharkiv, the second city of Ukraine, which stands just 25 miles from the Russian border and is viewed as a prime prize by Moscow.

The rape of the woman is said to have taken place on the night of 13 March.

The soldier who carried out the attack, who is said to be 19 years old, was subsequently arrested by Russian forces after he was identified by local people, and disappeared.

A villager who led the arresting soldiers to the suspect, who had been billeted at a local house, said two Russian officers had told him that the rapist would be summarily executed and that his family would be told he had been killed in action.

A destroyed car is seen in a crater following a Russian attack that destroyed a house in Kharkiv

“The soldier who did it was a young guy, 19 years old. His name was Vladimir. He had been drinking all day before he raped the poor girl. He was out of control. This was happening a bit; there didn’t seem to be much discipline among the Russian troops,” Sergei, 55, told The Independent.

“I went to the house where this guy was living with five Russians – most of them were officers. I went in by myself and said to the soldier, ‘You know what this is about, don’t you?’ He gave me his rifle. I have been in the army; I took out the magazine, and then took him out where the other soldiers got hold of him.”

Sergei, who did not want his surname published, continued: “I remember him very well. He was about medium height, quite well built, dark-haired, with tattoos on his neck. He wasn’t aggressive – he looked back at me as he was being taken away.

“A couple of the officers said that the soldier would be shot – this would be done out in the woods. There would be no official record. The guy’s family would be told that he had been killed fighting the Ukrainians.”

Sergei’s account of what took place was verified by three other villagers.

Residents of Mala Rohan said the village had been ‘destroyed’ by the presence of Russian troops

The victim and her family left Mala Rohan the following day. Her mother made a video recounting the attack and its devastating impact on the young woman. The Independent has seen the video, which makes harrowing viewing.

In it, the victim’s mother tells how a Russian soldier arrived at the school at midnight, when there were around 40 people left out of around 100 who had initially gathered in an effort to shelter from prolonged bombing outside.

The soldier, who was drunk, waved a pistol and ordered everyone to kneel, threatening to shoot them, said the mother. He then took the woman’s son away with him and forced him to take part in a spree of smashing shop windows with iron rods.

The soldier returned with the son half an hour later, to the relief of the family. But he then grabbed the young woman at gunpoint and dragged her to a room on the second floor of the school, while her young daughter cried in fear.

“I couldn’t sleep all night, thinking that he’d kill her,” said the mother. “She came back at seven in the morning. The soldier had raped her repeatedly. He injected her with something, saying it was a painkiller and that she wouldn’t feel anything because of it.

“He raped her, and cut her around the face and neck with a knife. He also cut off some of her hair. My daughter cannot speak about this any more, she has been so badly affected by what happened.”

I am Russian myself and I am ashamed of what is happening now. It is not just this rape which was so bad. They attacked this country for no reason; what is happening is wrong

Valentina, a Mala Rohan villager

Another resident of Mala Rohan, Valentina, 65, said: “What happened was terrible, really terrible. I heard that after the rape the soldier told other soldiers that the young woman had gone to the room with him willingly.

“That was a lie of course. When the Russians accepted that it was a lie, they said they were shocked. An officer came and apologised to a lot of people. The family left as soon as they could, the poor people.

“I am Russian myself and I am ashamed of what is happening now. It is not just this rape which was so bad. They attacked this country for no reason; what is happening is wrong.”

Two other villagers, Yulia, 47, and Andrei, 46, who verified the accounts of the sexual assault, said the behaviour of the Russian forces had been mixed.

“Some of them got us food and generally tried to help, but others were shooting in the air, acting badly, drinking a lot,” said Yulia. “This village has been destroyed because of their presence. We have had to spend most of the time underground for a month because of all the bombing.

“We don’t know what happened to the soldier who carried out the rape; they said they were going to shoot him. He could have easily killed that girl and other people at the school.”

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a warehouse after it was hit by Russian shelling in Kharkiv

The revelation of the attack in Mala Rohan comes after Ukraine’s chief prosecutor, Iryna Venediktova, announced that a Russian soldier was wanted in connection with the rape of a woman, and the murder of the woman’s husband, in Brovary, near Kyiv.

Public figures and human rights groups, both in Ukraine and abroad, have warned that the actual number of sexual assaults by Russian forces is likely to be far higher.

Maria Mezentseva, the MP for Kharkiv in the Ukrainian parliament, said last week that there were “many more victims”, and that she expected the attacks to come to light. “We will definitely not be silent,” she said.

Around a dozen people are said to have been killed in Mala Rohan during the fighting. One man was buried by his family in the garden of their home because it was too dangerous to travel to the cemetery outside the village.

“His name was Mikhail; he died in the bombing. The family waited for several days to see whether they could bury him properly. But at the end they had no choice but to dig a grave in the garden,” said Svetoslav Schneider, a neighbour.

“Some families left when they could. I stayed behind and I look after their belongings – not just their homes, but their pets, their farm animals. Hopefully people will return. But others may settle elsewhere.”

Cars hit on the road outside the village of Mala Rohan

Another body, that of a Russian soldier, lay unburied 20 yards from the home of Vasilyi Gregerovich. “They just left him there, him and many others dead, when they withdrew in a rush. They came to this country, fought in this stupid war, and some of them died,” he commented.

Mr Gregerovich said he was staying on in Mala Rohan.

“I am 82 years old. What am I going to do at my time of life? But I can understand if some people who left choose not to come back here. We were cut off for more than a month. Bad things happened here; people will have bad memories they will try to forget.”

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