Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska has said that Russian soldiers are using rape and sexual assault as a “weapon” in the ongoing invasion of her country, according to the British television news channel Sky News. Ms Zelenska was speaking in London at an international conference to tackle sexual violence during conflicts.
The 44-year-old also claimed the wives of Russian servicemen encouraged them to rape Ukrainian women.
According to the British news outlet, Ms Zelenska, who is married to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, 44, talked about sexual violence being perpetrated “systematically and openly” by the invaders as the war in her nation drags on since the Russian offensive began in February.
“Sexual violence is the cruellest, most animalistic way to prove mastery over someone. And for victims of this kind of violence, it is difficult to testify in wartime because nobody feels safe”, she said.
“This is another instrument that they (Russian forces) are using as their weaponry. This is another weapon in their arsenal in this war and conflict. That’s why they’re using this systematically and openly.”
“We see that the Russian servicemen are very open about this: they talk about it over the phone with their relatives, from phone conversations we’ve managed to capture.
“In fact, the wives of Russian servicemen encourage this, they say, ‘Go on, rape those Ukrainian women, just don’t share this with me, just don’t tell me’.
“This is why there has to be a global response to this.”
Ms Zelenska said it was “extremely important to recognise this as a war crime and to hold all of the perpetrators accountable”.
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