Yesterday, four Ukrainian MPs had a startling message for U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, members of Parliament and the British press: Women over the age of 60 who’ve been unable to flee the country amidst attacks by Russia are being raped, hanged, and driven to suicide by Russian soldiers.
The four MPs—Lesia Vasylenko, Alona Shkrum, Maria Mezentseva, and Olena Khomenko—were granted special permission to leave Ukraine by President Volodymyr Zelensky to bring attention to the wide breadth of humanitarian crises with which the country is currently grappling.
“We’re talking about senior citizens of Ukraine. Most of these women… have either been executed after the crime of rape, or they have taken their own lives. The main problem is that victims and families do not have the strength or capacity to come forward,” Vasylenko told the press ahead of their meeting with Johnson.
The women also met with members of Parliament and shared they’ve been witnessing unimaginable war crimes in cities near Kyiv that have been left imperiled by bombings, describing the strategies used by Russian soldiers to weaken their people as “medieval.”
Mariupol, a southeastern city, has made news for being one of the the prime targets of near-constant deadly attacks, including one recent siege that left a reported 2,500 dead and many sheltering in a theatre which then also got bombed, leaving people nowhere to go. “The city is besieged in the worst tradition of medieval times,” said Vasylenko. “People are deprived of food, people are deprived of water. For 14 days it was impossible to get into that city.”
The MPs also described in disturbing detail how Russian soldiers have taken advantage of embattled and isolated cities like Mariupol and infiltrated areas in which many women who weren’t able to escape are currently staying. After the soldiers rape their hostages, particularly the elderly women, victims are often either murdered or die by suicide.
“Most of [the women over 60] were executed after being raped or took their own lives,” detailed Vasylenko.
These claims come in the wake of Ukrainian foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba’s statements about Russian soldiers targeting Ukraine’s most vulnerable. “When bombs fall on your cities, when soldiers rape women in the occupied cities—and we have numerous cases of, unfortunately, when Russian soldiers rape women in Ukrainian cities—it’s difficult of course to speak about the efficiency of international law,” Kuleba said.
To aid in relief, the MPs urged the British government and humanitarian organizations to provide assistance to the families of the victims and ensure the crimes are “properly documented” for the United Nation’s International Court of Justice (ICJ). Though they bore very grim messages, from the reports of sexual violence to the threat of widespread and devastating poverty to the brutal war’s effect on the mental health of Ukrainian children, they were resolute in the fact that hope has not been lost.
“I feel super inspired having seen so much good from people, and so much bravery and so much unity,” said Shkrum. Vasylenko added: “Ukrainians will keep fighting united as one until the very last Russian soldier leaves Ukrainian territory and goes back to Russia.”