EU imposes sanctions for the first time against Russians involved in sexual violence in Ukraine

For the first time, the European Union has imposed sanctions against individuals and organizations responsible for sexual violence and large-scale violations of women’s rights. The list includes two Russian military commanders who fought in Ukraine.

On Tuesday, March 7, the Council of the European Union imposed sanctions on nine individuals and three legal entities for human rights violations, including sexual and gender-based violence. Among them are four Russians – two military and two police officers.

Officers of the Russian Armed Forces Nikolai Kuznetsov and Ramil Ibatullin were included in the EU sanctions list because their units took part in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the military under their command systematically participated in acts of sexual violence and rape in Ukraine in the spring of 2022.

For example, Major General Kuznetsov, commander of the special forces unit of the Dzerzhinsky Division of the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardiya), “is responsible for serious human rights violations in Ukraine, including systematic sexual and gender-based violence,” Brussels claimed.

The second Russian military officer, Colonel Ibatullin, is a former commander of the 90th Guards Tank Division, who served as part of the Russian occupation forces in Donbas in 2014-2017. In March 2022, the division under his command took part in an offensive on Chernihiv and Kyiv. “During the offensive, members of his unit committed acts of sexual and gender-based violence against Ukrainian civilians. After these facts became public, the Russian Defense Ministry promoted Ibatullin to the rank of colonel,” the document says.

Planning violence on a systematic level

According to Brussels, the Ukrainian authorities have charged several members of the 90th Guards Tank Division with sexual and gender-based violence, including the rape of a pregnant woman near Kyiv, the murder of a civilian after repeatedly raping his wife in the presence of a young child, and the participation of members of this unit in gang rapes. “Ibatullin is thus responsible for serious human rights violations in Ukraine, including systematic sexual and gender-based violence,” the EU document says.

The scale and gravity of the acts of sexual and gender-based violence committed in the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine indicate “systematic planning” and that Russian commanders are aware of sexual violence by military personnel in Ukraine and in some cases “encourage or even order” them to commit it.

Reports of the rape of Ukrainian civilians by Russian troops began to emerge in large numbers last spring after the Russian army withdrew from the cities of Kyiv region in a failed attempt to capture the capital.

Ukraine’s prosecutor’s office is currently investigating 171 cases of sexual violence by Russian soldiers, Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska told the United for Justice international conference in Lviv.

She said that among the victims are 39 men, 13 of whom are minors.

According to Zelenska, these are only those cases that became known because people found the strength to speak out.

Human rights activists have repeatedly emphasized that rape is a deliberate policy of the Russian army.

Image: @Underdogua / Dante Alighieroo.

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