EXCLUSIVE I was raped and beaten by a Russian soldier beside a pile of used condoms… I felt dirty, like I was a disgrace and my boyfriend left me because of it. But this is how I turned my life around
Karina remembers his hand on her back as he shoved her into the darkened room in the attic, the chained door slamming shut behind them.
It was here that the Russian soldier with dark eyes pointed a gun at her as he pushed her further into the black depths of the small bombed out room.
Standing inches away from her, the whisky still potent on his breath, the Russian soldier raised the gun to her head, threatening to kill her if she didn’t undress in front of him.
Karina, with trembling hands, followed his orders — knowing that if she tried to fight him as she so desperately wanted to, she would never see her mother’s face again.
‘And then he raped me,’ says Karina, her voice faltering as she recalls what happened on March 11, 2022.
‘I couldn’t think, I just felt numb and I couldn’t move,’ Karina, 22, tells MailOnline. ‘After he was done, he said he would come back and kill me if I told anybody about how he’d raped me.’
An hour earlier, the Russian soldier had shot at her boyfriend – missing him by mere inches – and accused Karina of secretly contacting Ukrainian forces to tell them how the men with guns had arrived in her village in the Kyiv region.
Karina had known that her life would be changed when the bombs began raining down on Kyiv and when the Kremlin’s tanks rolled into her village – but she could never imagine the horrors the Russian soldiers could inflict.
Her harrowing testimony, shared for the first time with MailOnline, is just one of many reports of systematic sexual violence by Russian soldiers to emerge following Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Karina, 22, (pictured) told MailOnline how a Russian soldier dragged her from her home and raped her in her neighbour’s abandoned house
Karina’s harrowing testimony, shared for the first time with MailOnline, is just one of many reports of systematic sexual violence by Russian soldiers to emerge following Vladimir Putin ‘s full-scale invasion of Ukraine
Karina was 20 when Putin’s men arrived in her village on huge tanks on March 8, 2022. Within minutes of arriving, they had terrorised the families who lived there, invaded their homes and stolen from them.
On the second day, they began going from door-to-door and moving into the families’ homes – sometimes keeping the families living there hostage in the basements – and setting up sniper positions.
‘In the buildings where families were still living, the Russian soldiers would go to their yards and leave their military vehicles there, knowing that the Ukrainians wouldn’t bomb them if they did so,’ Karina, now 22, says.
Karina, who worked as a medical worker at a hospital when the war broke out, recalls how on the third day furious Russian soldiers had gone house to house to seize their mobile phones and computers after Ukrainian artillery began firing at their positions.
‘They really cared about citizens of this village communicating with the Ukrainian military about their location,’ Karina explains.
Karina, her voice now hushed, remembers how the Russian soldiers had forced their way into her home and shot at her boyfriend before they snatched their phones away from them.
‘When the Ukrainian military began firing artillery at the Russians near our village, they blamed me and my boyfriend for giving away their positions,’ Karina says. ‘They shot at my boyfriend with a gun and missed him by inches to scare him.’
‘The Russian soldiers took me out of my home and blamed me, they accused me of transferring data about their location to our Ukrainian military,’ Karina says, recalling how one soldier began hauling her across the yard away from the other soldiers, not knowing what would happen to her.
Karina recalls little of what the Russian soldier looked like, only his dark hair and dark eyes, but remembers his nails cutting her skin as he dragged her into her neighbour’s abandoned home.
‘I remember seeing that everything was broken in my neighbour’s home,’ Karina says. ‘It was like it had been turned upside down.’
He never let go of her wrist as he hauled her up the narrow staircase, passing broken window panes and bullets still nestled in the charred walls as they went.
As they reached the top floor, he shoved Karina, now shaking with fear, into a small, dark room in the attic and locked the door behind them.
‘I remember seeing used condoms strewn across the floor. I understood that I wasn’t the first to be taken there,’ Karina says, her voice now quiet.
‘He pointed the gun at me and kept shouting at me that I’d been sending messages to the Ukrainian military about their location,’ Karina says. ‘He kept cocking the trigger and threatening to kill me. And then he pointed the gun at my head and told me to start to undress.’
‘And then he raped me,’ Karina says. ‘After he was done, he said he would rape me again and that he would kill me if the shelling from the Ukrainian military started again.’
‘I remember him saying with such hatred “I will kill you” if I told anybody – even other Russian soldiers – about how he had raped me. He said I must keep silent and not tell anybody.’
But a defiant Karina did just that – she told her closest family and boyfriend about what the Russian soldier did to her. In the days that followed, Karina says she showed no emotion and felt numb.
Russian troops sit atop tanks on the outskirts of the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine, on March 20, 2022
Russian tanks are seen piled up in heaps of twisted rusting metal in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, amid fierce fighting on March 1, 2022
‘But at some point I just broke down and cried for hours. I felt like I was dirty, like I was a disgrace,’ Karina says. ‘I also felt a lot of fear because the soldier had said if there was another Ukrainian shelling, he would come back and rape me and kill me.’
So when Karina heard the next Ukrainian shells hit the village, she was terrified he would find her.
‘I decided there wasn’t going to be a next time. I knew I needed to do something. I could handle anything this world, but I couldn’t go through that again,’ Karina says.
Under the cover of darkness, she and her boyfriend escaped from their home and walked for miles through fields, forests, and over train tracks until they reached a neighbouring village in the Kyiv region.
It was here that she sought refuge with a close friend who would go on to help her report the rape to the national police and prosecutors when her village was liberated a few weeks later.
Karina says that her relationship with her boyfriend didn’t last as he resented her for sharing what happened to her to her friends and family.
‘It really affected our relationship,’ Karina says. ‘He knew everything that happened that day and he was against the fact I told people about what the Russian soldier did. He wanted me to keep silent and not talk about.’
This stigma surrounding sexual violence means that hundreds if not thousands of Ukrainian women will remain silent about their harrowing experiences – and it will mean the true scale of wartime rape is likely to remain unknown.
The systematic nature of the rape committed by Russian soldiers is aimed at psychologically traumatising generations of people – not just the rape victims but also their families and children who are often forced to watch.
But Karina is hoping that by sharing her story of survival – and the horrors she witnessed and endured – more women will come forward and share what happened to them.
‘It’s so important to not keep silent because the soldiers who did this, they would just live normal lives if we said nothing and it’s not fair,’ Karina says. ‘They should be prosecuted, they should face justice. They should answer for their actions.’
Karina says that when she reported the rape to prosecutors, they provided her with photos of Russian soldiers who had invaded her village.
‘I was able to pick out the soldier who raped me,’ Karina says. ‘They also had DNA samples that proved he had done this to me.’
A defiant Karina was in court when they handed the soldier a guilty verdict – though he was convicted in absentia, meaning it’s unlikely he’ll ever spend time behind bars.
Karina has since tried to move on with her life – she married the love of her life in December and has received counselling from psychologists at the Andreiev Family Foundation for the past 20 months.
‘It’s really helped me. At the start, I just felt numb and like it wasn’t my body, but now I’m feeling normal and I’m still getting help from the psychologists,’ Karina says.
The work of those psychologists was so vital for Karina’s journey towards healing that she has decided to help other women who have gone through the same horrific experiences as she has.
She now works as a case manager at the Andreiev Family Foundation’s Assisto project where she helps survivors of sexual violence.
Karina says she decided to share what happened to her and the horrors she endured so that other women know that they can survive the trauma and they can talk about what happened to them.
‘I want to share my story to help other survivors of sexual violence – so that they know everyone can survive through this and go and live their lives. They can stay strong and live through all these really awful circumstances,’ Karina says.
If you are a victim of wartime sexual violence, you can contact Andreiev Family Foundation’s anonymous hotline at 0800 300166 for help and support. If you have fled Ukraine, you can WhatsApp call on +38 067727 2185.
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