Every day, Viktoriya has to walk past the house where she was raped by a Russian soldier the same age as her teenage son.
Russian troops arrived in her two-street village, near the Kyiv suburb of Borodianka, in early March. Soon afterward, she said, two of them raped her and a neighbor, killed two men, including her neighbor’s husband, and destroyed several homes.
“If you do not think about it all, you can live,” Viktoriya said in an interview in the village on a recent rainy day. “But it is certainly not forgotten.”
She is cooperating with prosecutors because she said she wants the perpetrators to feel the “lifelong pain” they left her with. “I want them to be punished,” she said.
Whether they ever will be is uncertain and may take years to determine. Rapes were among the many atrocities Russian troops inflicted on Ukrainian civilians during weeks of occupation in the Kyiv suburbs and elsewhere. But the challenges of prosecuting the assaults are daunting: Evidence is limited, and the victims are traumatized and sometimes reluctant to testify about their assault, if they even report it at all. The accused soldiers have mostly disappeared.
Ukrainian prosecutors say they are investigating thousands of war crimes, including execution-style killings and the indiscriminate bombing of civilians. Among them, “dozens” involve rapes, said Kateryna Duchenko, who oversees rape cases at the office of Ukraine’s general prosecutor — a low percentage that represents only a fraction of the suffering.