Sexual violence by members of the Russian armed forces: Federal Public Prosecutor must investigate

Ukraine – Crimes against humanity – Sexual violence

Torture of civilians, arbitrary killings, sexual violence – in the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine, evidence of international crimes committed by Russian soldiers continues to mount. A survivor is now calling for investigations in Germany: members of Russian armed forces allegedly first killed her husband and then raped her several times. In order to support the criminal prosecution already underway in Ukraine and to bring an end to the impunity of the perpetrators, the Ukrainian Legal Advisory Group (ULAG) and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) jointly filed a criminal complaint with the German Federal Public Prosecutor in June 2023. This complaint is directed against two Russian soldiers and two of their superiors.


Shortly after the start of the large-scale Russian invasion in February 2022, Russian troops occupied the survivor's village in the Kyiv region. Two soldiers entered the family’s compound, humiliated them, killed the survivor’s husband and repeatedly raped her. Later, the family's house was destroyed, and the woman and her son managed to escape.

The criminal complaint filed by ECCHR and ULAG calls on the Federal Public Prosecutor to act in tandem with Ukrainian authorities. Although the latter have already opened proceedings in absentia against one of the perpetrators, a comprehensive criminal prosecution in Ukraine itself is currently not possible – and not just because the ongoing war of aggression does in fact hamper investigations. In addition, the Ukrainian legal system neither recognizes crimes against humanity nor command responsibility. Thus, the act cannot be prosecuted as part of a widespread or systematic attack against the civilian population, i.e., as a crime against humanity. Nor is it possible to investigate those superiors who failed to prevent or punish the acts of their subordinates. To sew up these gaps in the law, the two organizations are demanding that investigations be launched in Germany on the basis of the principle of universal jurisdiction. 

This particular case also exemplifies the use of sexual violence against Ukrainian civilians: as of June 2023, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office has opened investigations into 208 cases of conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV) registered in different parts of the country.


The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has resulted in numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity; there have been repeated reports of arbitrary detention, deportation and execution of members of the Ukrainian civilian population. The same applies to the use of sexual violence, which has been documented in large parts of the occupied territories. ECCHR is working with victims and partner organizations from Ukraine on selected cases to hold those responsible for these crimes accountable.

Documents (3)

Press (1)


Glossary (4)


Crimes against humanity

Crimes against humanity are grave violations of international law carried out against a civilian population in a systematic or widespread way.

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Topics (2)


Sexual and gender-based violence

Rape, sexual assault, forced pregnancy and sexual slavery: these are all sexual violence. In repressive regimes and armed conflict, the military, secret services and police often use these and similar methods as part of their strategy to oppress the civilian population.

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