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Russian occupation leaves physical and mental scars in Ukraine

In private, some find the courage to speak about the abuse they suffered at the hands of Russian soldiers. © France 24

In Ukraine, the ravages the war has inflicted on the nation are obvious. However, other wounds are less so, and psychologists have been working hand in hand with prosecutors whose mission is to look into allegations of war crimes, particularly when it comes to conflict-related sexual violence. Over the course of their findings, they have found a population traumatised by occupation and war, and have been seeking to offer help and support to as many people as they can. Our reporters Luke Shrago and Mélina Huet accompanied these psychologists as they carried out their work.


The Russian army arrived in Zahal’tsi, a village in the Kyiv region, on March 20, 2022 and occupied the town for 10 days. The scars of war can be seen everywhere, from the bullet-riddled doors to the damaged buildings.  

In a health clinic that has been plunged into darkness, a number of women wait to undergo medical examinations. Representatives from a number of associations ask the women to tell their stories while they wait to see a medical professional.  

Babushka Olena opens up about the traumatic events that keep her up at night. At first embarrassed and worried, she is encouraged by the kind words of Iryna Galkovska, a psychologist from the Assisto project run by the Andreev Family Foundation. She ends up sharing the the horrible experience that her relatives went through at the hands of Russian soldiers. 

Someone to confide in 

During these interviews, Iryna also tries to identify women who have been sexually abused – or, at the very least, to spread the word that help is available. “Those who committed the crimes should feel the guilt, not the women who were victims,” says Irina. 

Vasyl, head of the regional social and psychological support centre in Kyiv, visits people directly to investigate acts of sexual violence and raise awareness. He says that 95% of the calls he receives are from Ukrainians who simply want someone to confide in.   

Under the auspices of the international organisation Women for Women, Vasyl and Iryna are currently helping 33 out of the 1,500 women they have provided to support to since August. The trauma associated with months of occupation and a year of full-scale warfare is also a major issue for Ukrainian society. 

Click on the video above to watch the full report. 

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