Russian forces are increasingly using sexual violence as a weapon of war in Ukraine, UN officials say

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Refugees fleeing from Ukraine are seen after crossing Ukrainian-Polish border due to Russia's unprovoked war in Ukraine on March 6, 2022.
  • A growing number of Ukrainian women are accusing Russian troops of sexual violence during the war.
  • The UN is urging an investigation into the accusations as reports of rape and violence pile up.
  • "Rape is used now as a weapon of war by Russian invaders in Ukraine," a UN official said. 
  • For more stories visit Business Insider.

Several ambassadors in the United Nations are urging the International Criminal Court to independently investigate the growing number of accusations from Ukrainian women of Russian soldiers' use of sexual violence and rape.

"We are increasingly hearing of rape and sexual violence. These allegations must be independently investigated to ensure justice and accountability," Sima Bahous, executive director for UN Women, told the UN Security Council Monday.

"The combination of mass displacement with the large presence of conscripts and mercenaries, and the brutality displayed against Ukrainian civilians, has raised all red flags," she added.

Ambassadors for France, Norway, Germany, Gabon, and Ukraine expressed support for an investigation.

Though Russia has repeatedly denied attacks on civilians since invading Ukraine in late February, Ukrainian civilian casualties are heavily documented — and now, horrifying accounts of sexual violence are coming to the forefront of these abuses

Kateryna Cherepakha, president of La Strada Ukraine, a human rights organization, told the UN Security Council Monday that the organization had received information on nine separate cases in which 12 women and girls accused Russian troops of rape, Reuters reported.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," Cherepakha said. "We know and see – and we want you to hear our voices – that violence and rape is used now as a weapon of war by Russian invaders in Ukraine." 

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy echoed the reports, telling Lithuanian lawmakers via video Tuesday there are "hundreds of cases of rape" in areas of the country impacted by Russian troops, Al Jazeera reported

Russia denied the allegations during the council meeting.

"No convincing evidence has been presented for any of these crimes, but it's understandable that you have trampled the presumption of innocence a long time ago," Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russian deputy ambassador to the UN, said at the meeting.

But, as Ukrainian forces have liberated cities from Russian control, dozens of civilians and advocacy groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have shared devasting accounts of sexual brutality.

Low morale, conscripts, and foreign fighters within the Russian forces could be driving soldiers to commit sexual abuse during the war, Insider previously reported, citing previous instances when Russian troops committed the same type of violence.

Some of the war's worst abuses — including sexual violence — were discovered in Bucha, a suburb just over an hour's drive away from the Ukrainian capital.

Lyudmyla Denisova, the Ukrainian Parliament's Human Rights Commissioner, shared with BBC an instance in Bucha when a group of "About 25 girls and women aged 14 to 24 were systematically raped during the occupation in the basement of one house in Bucha."

"Russian soldiers told them they would rape them to the point where they wouldn't want sexual contact with any man, to prevent them from having Ukrainian children," she told BBC. At least nine of the women and girls were impregnated, she said.

The United Nations did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

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