Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska has claimed Russian soldiers are using the rape of Ukrainian children and women as a “weapon of war”. Speaking at the Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict conference in London, she also alleged that Russian wives have been authorising rape crimes for their husbands going to war in the name of the motherland.
Mrs Zelenska argued intercepted calls between Russian soldiers and their wives showed Russian people are “very open” about talking about sexual crimes against Ukrainian civilians.
She told the conference on Monday: “Sexually related crimes are not just about violence or threatening people, they are, in fact, another weapon in their arsenal in this war.
“This is why it’s extremely important to recognise [these] as war crimes and bring all the perpetrators to justice.
“This is systematic, because it is coming from the top down, and Russian servicemen are very open about this – they talk about this over the phone with their relatives.”
She added: “Their wives are encouraging this, [they say] ‘go on, rape these Ukrainian women, just don’t share it with me’.
“I do hope there will be, and has to be, a response from the free world to everything that’s happening in Ukraine now.”
Also speaking at the conference, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said: “Sexual violence in conflict was a clear breach of international law.
“We will not rest in our efforts to protect potential victims and prosecute the perpetrators.”
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Ms Zelenska also urged the British public not to forget the “tragedy” of the Russian invasion amid the festive season.
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“My message for the British is as follows: It’s not just a war for our freedom and our lives.
“This is the war of opposing world views, the war for the values. It’s important that these are preserved. This is a fight for the truth and human values.
“We do hope that the approaching season of Christmas doesn’t make you forget about our tragedy and get used to our suffering.”
On Monday, Ms Zelenska also visited Downing Street and met the Prime Minister’s wife, Akshata Murty.