Pointing to a dirty gray sofa in the corner of a small room in her neighbour’s house, the Ukrainian mother said it was there that a teenage Russian soldier raped her.
It happened on an evening of terror, cruelty and murder in a rural village outside kyiv.
Vika, 42, said she decided to speak about the attack on camera to encourage other rape victims in Ukraine to speak out about what Russian forces had done to them.
“I want women who also [have been raped] – I know there are a lot – don’t stay silent,” she told Sky News from the darkened room where the attack took place in March.
“You have to talk. They [the Russian soldiers] should be punished.”
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Ukrainian authorities have at least 10 active investigations into rapes involving Russian forces, and many more are ongoing, including alleged rapes of children and men.
This is a difficult and deeply sensitive task because many victims are too traumatized to speak out or unwilling to report an assault, Deputy Interior Minister Kateryna Pavlichenko said.
Instead of just waiting for people to come forward, his ministry has set up special police teams to educate local communities on how to report war crimes involving sexual violence by Russian soldiers – as well as advice on accessing comprehensive support.
“Unequivocally, I want to say that this is a type of weapon in wartime conditions,” Pavlichenko said.
“We will take maximum measures to ensure that these crimes are recorded and transferred to international institutions and examined by an international tribunal.”
Russia has denied allegations of rape by its soldiers.
Vika has to live with the reality of what a Russian soldier, named Daniel, 19, allegedly did to her on the night of March 9.
A neighbour, Natasha, 44, was also raped in the same house at the same time by a second soldier who first shot her husband.
This soldier gave his name as 21-year-old Oleg.
She also agreed to talk about her ordeal.
Both women said it started after dark, when they were at their homes a few doors apart on the same quiet street.
Russian forces controlled the village as part of a failed push towards kyiv.
Around 9 or 10 p.m., three Russian soldiers, who smelled of alcohol, knocked on the door of Vika’s house to demand that she accompany them.
Fearing for her life, she had no choice but to obey.
The group visited a second home but decided against the woman there.
At this time, a shot was fired by Oleg. He grazed the leg of the third soldier, who was described as the commander. He went to seek medical help.
The other two soldiers, still with Vika, continued to Natasha’s house.
Vika said that Natasha’s husband, Sasha, opened the door to Oleg, who pointed his gun at him and said he wanted his wife.
Sasha told him to leave, saying that Oleg surely wouldn’t kill him because he too was Russian.
But when he turned to go home, the young soldier opened fire again, shooting Sasha in the back of the neck. He fell to the ground.
The soldier then woke Natasha up and forced her out.
The two women were dragged to a deserted house on the same street. The owners had fled at the start of the war. The group entered through an open window.
Oleg took Natasha upstairs, while Vika was pushed into a small room downstairs.
Back at the crime scene, Vika looked at the couch where she had been assaulted.
It is placed against a wall painted in baby pink, with a pretty cherry blossom print in one corner.
She recounted the rape in a single monologue. His words were spoken clearly and carefully, his voice strong, interrupted only occasionally by a short cough.
Daniel, 19, was the same age as the younger of his two sons.
Vika said she tried to reason with him but he told her not to distract him and just to “do her job”. She had been warned that she would be killed if she did not cooperate.
Vika said she was raped several times.
“He didn’t treat me like a wife or a mother but, I’m sorry to say, like a prostitute,” she said. “He was very aggressive… I don’t know, did he take Viagra? Or maybe drugs. He was crazy. Thank God he didn’t kill me and I was [ultimately] able to escape.”
At the same time, Oleg raped Natasha on a mattress in a larger upstairs bedroom.
She has since fled to Austria with her teenage son.
Speaking by phone, Natasha told Sky News Oleg told her her son would be hurt if she resisted.
“At that time, I was only thinking of my son so that he wouldn’t kill him,” she says.
She described feeling “like a living corpse – dead end – I didn’t know what to do”.
She said the rape lasted about an hour and a half. Then the soldier went down to get Daniel who was no longer there. He then fled as well.
Natasha said she returned home broken to face an even deeper trauma – the reality of her husband lying dead in darkness on the stone floor of their tiny entrance hall.
“How did I feel? I sat up until morning. I couldn’t sleep,” she said, her voice firm, her sentences short.
The two women had to stay in the village, terrified that their attackers would find them and kill them. The village remained under the control of Russian forces until the end of March.
Valentina, 65, Natasha’s mother, who lived with her daughter, said the soldiers alternated every few days with new troops arriving. She said a later unit was shocked when they learned what Daniel and Oleg had done.
After all Russian troops withdrew as part of a larger pullout in northern Ukraine, Vika and Natasha were able to testify to police and prosecutors about the attacks.
They both want their rapists arrested and punished.
Last week, a group of prosecutors visited the house where the assaults took place with Vika.
The once-smart family home has been ransacked by Russian troops, who appear to have used it as a squalid base, destroying furniture and destroying rooms.
Empty liquor bottles line the floor near the front door, along with a pile of cigarette butts in a huge glass bowl. Every room is littered with the belongings of the family that owns the property.
Clothes, books, children’s toys and even Monopoly cards are scattered in a chaotic mess. Rough graffiti is daubed on a wall in the lobby. It also appears to identify the name of the village’s military unit.
Vika recorded her testimony on camera with the prosecution team at home. It should be used in future criminal proceedings.
As they work to build a case, authorities have also collected DNA evidence from the property and are trying to identify individual suspects.
One of the prosecutors involved said some of the war crimes Russia is accused of committing appear to have been isolated acts committed by individual soldiers, but in other cases there was an order from a commander authorizing crime.
“It’s possible to say that the goal was to boost morale – to make the troops feel as winners and have permission to commit any crime without fear of being held responsible,” said Valeri Zymoglyad, of the attorney general’s office. from Ukraine.
As time creates distance from the horror of March 9, Vika and Nastasha remain deeply traumatized.
“It’s very difficult,” said Natasha, speaking from her refuge in Austria.
“Not everyone can get through this. But I have a son, I can’t wait and feel sorry for myself.”
Vika received a small dog that belonged to one of her relatives. She said he was a comfort. “I sleep badly. I don’t have a good feeling inside of me…lots of tears.”
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