Ukraine is expected on Thursday to hold a preliminary hearing in its first trial of a Russian soldier charged with raping a Ukrainian woman during Russia’s invasion, the first of what could be dozens of such cases.
The suspect, Mikhail Romanov, 32, who is not in Ukrainian custody and will be tried in absentia, is accused of murdering a civilian in the Kyiv capital region on March 9 and then repeatedly raping the man’s wife, according to court files.
Russia’s Defence Ministry did not immediately respond to a written request for comment, and Reuters was unable to reach the soldier. Moscow has denied allegations of war crimes.
Romanov is accused of raping a 33-year-old woman after he and another Russian soldier shot her husband Oleksiy at point blank in the village of Bohdanivka to the northeast of Kyiv.
The two soldiers then left and later returned twice more to rape her, the court files said. The identity of the second soldier had not been established.
It was not immediately clear what kind of legal representation Romanov would have at the trial, which will be held behind closed doors.
A prosecutor working on sexual violence cases told Reuters that up to 50 such crimes were being investigated, but that the number of instances of sexual violence by Russian soldiers since Feb. 24 was likely to be substantially higher.
Officials, activists and doctors have said that many survivors are afraid or unwilling to come forward to the police and prosecutors with their cases, for fear of reprisals from Russia and stigma from their Ukrainian neighbours.
A spokesperson for the Prosecutor General’s office said that a prosecutor might comment about the trial publicly after Thursday’s hearing.
Ukraine says it is investigating thousands of potential war crimes committed during the Russian invasion, which began on Feb. 24. Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova told Reuters that many of the suspects are in Russia but that some have been taken captive by Ukraine as prisoners of war.
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