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Ukraine begins first trial of Russian soldier charged with rape

KYIV, June 23 (Reuters) – Ukraine held a preliminary hearing on Thursday in its first trial of a Russian soldier accused of 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 repeatedly raping the man’s wife, according to court records.

The Russian Defense Ministry did not respond to a written request for comment and Reuters was unable to reach the soldier. Moscow has denied the war crimes charges.

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Romanov is accused of raping a 33-year-old woman after he and another Russian soldier shot her husband Oleksiy at point-blank range in the northeast Kyiv town of Bohdanivka.

The two soldiers then left, then returned two more times to rape her, according to court records. The identity of the second soldier has not been established.

The woman asked for the trial to be held behind closed doors because she wanted to prevent details about her and her family from being made public, prosecutor Oksana Kalyus told reporters after the preliminary hearing in a Kyiv court.

Kalyus said Ukrainian authorities believed Romanov was in Russia. While he could not be arrested there, he could be arrested in another country if he is convicted, he said.

“If he crosses the border, he will be arrested and handed over to Ukraine,” he said.

A prosecutor working on sexual violence cases told Reuters that as many as 50 such crimes were being investigated, but that the number of cases of sexual violence by Russian soldiers since February 24 is likely to be substantially higher.

Officials, activists and doctors have said many survivors are afraid or unwilling to take their cases to police and prosecutors, fearing retaliation from Russia and stigma from their Ukrainian neighbors.

Ukraine says it is investigating thousands of possible war crimes committed during the Russian invasion, which began on February 24. Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova told Reuters many of the suspects are in Russia, but some were taken captive by Ukraine as prisoners of war. .

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Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Max Hunder; Edited by Tom Balmforth, Mark Heinrich and Toby Chopra

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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