Russian soldier Mikhail Romanov, 32, has been charged with the rape of a Ukrainian woman and murdering her husband in March, during the onset of Moscow’s invasion. A preliminary hearing was held in Kyiv on Friday, June 24.
The hearing, predicted to be one of dozens of such cases, was held in absentia, with Romanov currently residing back in Russia.
He stands accused of breaking into a house in the village of Bohdanivka, north-east of Kyiv, murdering an adult male, and raping his wife while her four-year-old son hid in a nearby boiler room. Shortly before the alleged rape, Romanov and another Russian soldier allegedly shot dead the woman’s husband in the home’s backyard at point blank range, according to court documents.
The two soldiers then allegedly returned twice more to gang rape the 33-year-old mother.
Speaking after the preliminary hearing, prosecutor Oksana Kalyus told reporters that the woman requested that the trial be held behind closed doors because of privacy concerns.
In court, the woman, whose name has not been publicly disclosed, described hearing the gun shots that killed her husband before the sound of marching boots echoed up the stairs. She then testified that a Russian commander, who identified himself as Romanov, appeared in her bedroom along with a younger soldier dressed in black.
She shouted to her four-year-old son to stay hidden in the boiler room, which their family had used to shelter from Russian shelling.
The mother told British newspaper The Times that the younger soldier pointed a gun to her head and threatened her before the first rape occurred, saying: “You’d better shut up or I’ll get your child and show him his mother’s brains spread around the house.”
“[The younger soldier] told me to take my clothes off. Then they both raped me, one after the other,” Natalya told the newspaper. “They didn’t care that my son was in the boiler room crying. Then they told me to go shut him up and came back. All the time they held the gun to my head and taunted me, saying: ‘Shall we kill her or keep her alive?’”
Little information is known about Romanov, whose social media images show him to have a large bear tattoo on his chest. During Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, he served in the 239th regiment of the 90th Guards Tank Division and was involved in the failed offensive on Kyiv.
Ukrainian chief-prosecutor Iryna Venediktova, said: “As of now we don’t know where he is – maybe he is still fighting, on rotation in the Russian Federation, or even dead. We don’t know, but we want to prosecute him in absentia.”
Nevertheless, prosecutor Oksana Kalyus said: “If he crosses the border, he will be arrested and delivered to Ukraine.”
The trial continues and the Kyiv Post will provide further updates.
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