Accounts of rape, torture and executions by Russian troops
War crime prosecutor of Kharkiv Oblast stands with forensic technician and policeman at the site of a mass burial in a forest during exhumation on September 16, 2022 in Izium, Ukraine.
Yevhenii Zavhorodnii | Global Images Ukraine | Getty Images News | Getty Images
Editor’s note: The following article contains graphic photos of dead bodies and extremely graphic material detailing reports of executions, rape and torture of people in Ukraine, including of young children.
UNITED NATIONS — A report commissioned by the United Nations this month found Russian forces in Ukraine committed an array of war crimes, including summary executions, torture, rape and other acts of sexual violence against Ukrainian civilians.
The report by the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine details violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in four regions occupied by Russian armed forces. The commission focused its investigations largely in the regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy.
In preparing the report, the commission conducted 191 interviews and traveled to 27 cities over five separate visits. In some cases, the commission found that Ukrainian forces committed war crimes against Russian troops, though those incidents were less frequent.
Moscow has repeatedly denied allegations that its forces deliberately target civilians since the full-scale invasion began in late February.
In one of the most disturbing examples of sexual violence, the commission details an incident involving a 4-year-old girl:
In Kyiv region, in March 2022, two Russian soldiers entered a home, raped a 22-year-old woman several times, committed acts of sexual violence on her husband and forced the couple to have sexual intercourse in their presence.
Then, one of the soldiers forced their four-year-old daughter to perform oral sex on him, which is rape
The commission said that the ages of victims of sexual assault ranged from 4 years of age to over 80 years old.
“Perpetrators raped the women and girls in their homes or took them and raped them in unoccupied dwellings,” the group wrote in the Oct. 18 report.
The group also wrote that spouses and family members, including children, were sometimes forced to witness the crimes committed by Russian troops who “frequently seemed under the influence of alcohol.”
The commission detailed separate incidents in March involving both a middle-aged and an elderly woman in a village outside of Kyiv:
A 56-year-old woman explained how two of the three Russian armed forces who broke into her home gang-raped her as the third one watched while masturbating. They stole food and money from her. She learned a couple of weeks later that, in a separate incident, her husband had been tortured and executed.
An 83-year-old woman described how, while her village was occupied by Russian armed forces, she was raped by a Russian armed forces serviceman in her house where her physically disabled husband was also present.
The commission wrote that some victims declined to be interviewed while others have considered suicide. One psychologist who spoke with the commission said that “all victims with whom I am working are blaming themselves for being spotted by perpetrators and being raped.”
The report also documents Russian forces unlawfully confining Ukrainian civilians in overcrowded makeshift facilities before carrying out interrogation sessions which involved methods of torture:
The conditions of detention were inhumane. According to the victims, the space was so crowded that some were forced to stand or sleep on chairs for weeks. There was no light or ventilation, and the air was hot and suffocating.
Water was dripping from ceilings and walls and there were no showers or toilets. There was very limited access to food and water, and close to no access to medical care … The soldiers randomly shot near the victims to scare them.
A Ukrainian police officer examines a cell as the words of the Lord’s Prayer are written on the wall at the District Police Department used by Russian occupiers for torture, Balakliia, Kharkiv Region, northeastern Ukraine.
Vyacheslav Madiyevskyy | Future Publishing | Getty Images
The report added that Russian soldiers referred to Ukrainian civilians as “fascists” or “livestock” during interrogation sessions.
The individuals were handcuffed, tied, blindfolded and sustained prolonged beatings with rifle butts or batons. Russian forces also administered electric shocks with tasers and carried out mock executions, according to the commission.
“Victims also described acts of forced nudity during prolonged times, in front of others, which also amount to sexual violence,” the report said.
One victim was severely beaten during two days after refusing to declare support for the Russian Federation on camera.
Another victim was forced to stand naked and shout “glory to Russia” while being beaten and described beatings as a “punishment for speaking Ukrainian” and “not remembering the lyrics of the anthem of the Russian Federation.”
The commission wrote that following initial detention in Ukraine, individuals were forcibly transferred to Belarus or Russia, which is a violation of international humanitarian law. Once civilians reached Russia, they were held in detention facilities, known as filtration camps, before being issued Russian identity cards. Moscow has denied those charges.
The report also outlines events in which victims in “civilian clothes, driving civilian cars and unarmed” were targeted and killed by Russian troops.
The left hand of a senior man killed in a deadly Russian missile strike on a humanitarian convoy remains on the steering wheel of a car in Zaporizhzhia, southeastern Ukraine.
Dmytro Smolienko | Ukrinform | Future Publishing | Getty Images
“Most of the incidents took place during daylight, which means that the civilian appearance should have been clear to the attacker,” the commission wrote, adding that soldiers shot civilians using assault rifles, or in some cases vehicle-mounted weapons.
The majority of the summary executions occurred in places where Russian armed forces were located for an extended period of time, according to the commission’s findings.
Some victims’ dead bodies were found with hands tied behind their back, a clear indication that the victim was in custody and posed no threat at the time of death.
The Commission’s investigations show that the cause of death of the victims is consistent with methods typically used during executions: gunshot wounds to the heads, blunt trauma, or slit throats. In some cases, there was also evidence of torture on the bodies, such as bruises, wounds and fractures.
Investigators carry away a body bag in a forest near Izyum, eastern Ukraine, on September 23, 2022, where Ukrainian investigators have uncovered more than 440 graves after the city was recaptured from Russian forces, bringing fresh claims of war atrocities.
Sergey Bobok | Afp | Getty Images
The commission concluded in its report that through its investigations in the regions of Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy, it found that Russian armed forces carried out an “array of war crimes, violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
The group wrote that it will expand its investigations to include a broader geographical region in a future report.