Tortured Ukrainian woman, 23, who was ‘raped and shot’ by Putin’s soldiers had ‘tears and wounds’
A 23-year-old Ukrainian woman who was allegedly raped and shot in the head by Vladimir Putin‘s soldiers was found with ‘tears’ and ‘wounds’ on her body in Bucha, her devastated Russian-speaking parents have revealed.
Karina Yershova’s body was found mutilated after she had been tortured, with her nails, apart from one, being torn from her fingers.
‘It was like she had been trying to fight,’ her stepfather Andrii Derenko, 41, told The Telegraph.
Karina was allegedly raped, shot in the back of the head, and dumped by Russian soldiers in a backyard in the town of Bucha, where more than 400 bodies were found after Russian forces withdrew earlier this month.
‘She was shot at point blank range. Almost half of her head was missing,’ Andrii said.
Karina Yershova’s body was found mutilated after she had been tortured, with her nails, apart from one, being torn from her fingers
Karina was allegedly raped, shot in the back of the head, and dumped by Russian soldiers in a backyard in the town of Bucha, where more than 400 bodies were found after Russian forces withdrew earlier this month. Pictured: Officials continue to exhume the bodies of civilians from a second mass grave in Bucha on Wednesday
The heartbroken family held a funeral ceremony for Karina in the city Bila Tserkva, with her mother, Olena Derenko, crumpled in grief over her only daughter’s coffin.
Andrii held back his sobbing wife as she tried to open the closed casket, protecting her from seeing the mutilated body of her 23-year-old daughter.
The family had been told by the police Karina, who was originally reported as being 16, had been murdered and tortured, but they withheld some details because it was ‘so horrific’.
‘We think it possible that she was raped,’ Andrii told the newspaper. ‘We have not seen the lower part of her body, just the upper part, but what we have seen at the top, we can only imagine what can be on the rest of her body.’
Karina was found with ‘tears’ and ‘wounds’ on her body, and her hands were burned so badly that her bones were visible. The silver rings she always wore remained on her fingers.
She also had made a tourniquet around her leg in an attempt to stop the bleeding from a gunshot wound.
Her mother Olena has been left heartbroken by the death of her daughter, who she says ‘loved life’.
‘How can I feel when someone took my own child,’ Olena said. ‘I have cried everything I had. I have no tears now.’
Men wearing protective gear exhume the bodies of civilians killed during the Russian occupation in Bucha on Wednesday
The family fled in 2014 from the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine when Moscow-backed separatists began fighting Ukrainian forces there. The family, who speak Russian, said they now ‘hate’ Russia after their lives were torn apart by Vladimir Putin’s regime – twice.
Andrii told The Telegraph: ‘We hate them. We are from the Donetsk region where almost all people speak Russian, but I hate the Russians because they killed a Russian-speaking girl. Now I am ashamed to speak Russian because I hate the Russian world.
‘The Russian soldiers are not humans. They are animals.’
A friend of Olena, Olesya Vasylets wrote on Facebook that Russian ‘racists’ murdered Karina.
She wrote: Friends, terrible news. Racists killed my friend’s daughter Karina Yershova.
‘The pain is terrible. She was mocked, raped, and then shot in the trash. Today my mother found out that she was killed and created a help group. Please help me bury her, I knew this kid for years, taught her English, she was a very bright and talented girl.’
Karina disappeared early last month and on March 10 her mother appealed on social media for information to ‘help me find my daughter’ who was last seen on ‘energy workers street’ in Bucha. ‘I really hope for help, thank you,’ she said.
The harrowing incident is thought to be one of the latest examples of brutality enacted upon helpless civilians during Russia’s war in Ukraine as the conflict enters its seventh week.
Cemetery worker Artem, looks at the sky exhausted, while working on the grave of Andriy Verbovyi, 55, who was killed by Russian soldiers while serving in Bucha territorial defense on Wednesday
Key findings of the OSCE report:
- Targeted killings, forced disappearances and abductions of civilians, journalists and officials have been carried out routinely.
- Mariupol maternity hospital was ‘deliberately’ destroyed in a Russian attack despite being clearly marked as an operational hospital. ‘This attack therefore constitutes a clear violation of international humanitarian law and those responsible for it have committed a war crime.’
- Much of the conduct by Russian forces and their proxies ‘violate international humanitarian law of occupation’.
- The report was concluded before the Bucha massacre was uncovered, but it says ‘evidence points to a major war crime and a crime against humanity committed by the Russian forces’.
- There is ‘credible evidence’ of violations of fundamental human rights, such as the prohibition of torture and other degrading treatment, committed in areas under Russian control.
- The ‘unlawful attack’ by Russia has caused destruction of vital healthcare and education services that has made it ‘very difficult’ for Ukrainian authorities to fulfil its residents human rights.
- The report was ‘not able to conclude’ whether the Russian invasion constitute ‘a widespread or systematic attack directed against a civilian population’.
- Violations have been committed by both sides, but those by Russian forces ‘are by far larger in nature and scale’.
Ukraine has been declared a crime scene, as prosecutors continue to recover hundreds of bodies from a mass grave in Bucha.
Chief prosecutor Karim Khan QC, the first Briton to lead the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the Hague, said there were ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe war crimes had been committed by Russian troops, who are accused of the mass slaughter and rape of hundreds of civilians.
The senior lawyer’s comments came as the first independent report into allegations of human rights abuses also found ‘a catalogue of inhumanity’ had been perpetrated by Vladimir Putin‘s forces since the illegal invasion began on February 24.
Expert investigators from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) found ‘clear patterns of international humanitarian law violations’, including evidence of the direct targeting of civilians, attacks on hospitals and schools, rapes, executions, looting and forced deportation of Ukrainians to Russia.
Attacks in the port city of Mariupol, including the targeting of a maternity hospital and a theatre, where 300 civilians died, were ‘most likely an egregious violation of international humanitarian law and those who ordered or executed it committed a war crime’, the report said.
The experts catalogued alleged atrocities in the first five weeks of the Russian invasion but stressed the more recent events in Bucha, a town 15 miles west of Kyiv, also ‘deserve and require a serious international inquiry’.
The bodies of more than 400 civilians – some bound and shot in the back of the head – were found in a mass grave behind the Church of St Andrew and All Saints in the town following the withdrawal of Russian troops two weeks ago.
‘It is inevitable that the Russian troops will be held responsible. We will drag everyone to a tribunal, and not only for what was done in Bucha,’ Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said in an address late on Wednesday.
He also said work was continuing to clear tens of thousands of unexploded shells, mines and trip wires left behind in northern Ukraine by the departing Russians. He urged people returning to homes to be wary of any unfamiliar objects and report them to police.
It came as Ukraine accused Putin’s soldiers of shooting dead six men and a woman in a house in the village of Pravdyne, west of the city of Kherson. The troops then ‘blew up the building’ to ‘hide their crime’, prosecutors said.
The OSCE also discovered evidence that Russian troops raped women and girls, used human shields, and tortured civilians and journalists.
Soldiers also carried out extra-judicial executions, including the murder of Yuriy Prylypko, the head of the local government in Hostomel, north-west of Kyiv.
Investigators rejected Russian claims that attacks on Ukrainian medical facilities were accidental, saying ‘it is hardly possible that this is the case when 50 hospitals are destroyed’.
Michael Carpenter, US ambassador to the OSCE, said: ‘Taken as a whole, the report documents the catalogue of inhumanity perpetrated by Russia’s forces in Ukraine.’
His UK counterpart, ambassador Neil Bush, added: ‘We must, as an international community, hold accountable those responsible for the atrocities that have been committed in Ukraine, including military commanders and other individuals in the Putin regime.
‘Soldiers and commanders who issue or follow illegal orders need to understand that their actions will be documented, and they will be held to account. Justice will be served.’
Residents in Yahidne, a village near the northern city of Chernihiv, said Russian troops forced them to stay for almost a month in the basement of a school, allowing them outside only to go to the toilet, cook on open fires – and bury the dead in a mass grave.
In one of the rooms, they wrote a list of those who perished. It had 18 names.
‘An old man died near me and then his wife died next,’ Valentyna Saroyan said. ‘Then a man died who was lying there, then a woman sitting next to me. … Another old man looked so healthy, he was doing exercises, but then he was sitting and fell. That was it.’
An investigation into war crimes is already underway in Ukraine, including into atrocities revealed after Moscow’s retreat from cities and towns around Kyiv.
More than 720 people were killed in Kyiv suburbs that had been occupied by Russian troops and over 200 were considered missing, the Interior Ministry said early Wednesday.
In the Chernihiv region, villagers said more than 300 people had been trapped for almost a month by the occupying Russian troops in the basement of a school and only allowed outside to go to the toilet or cook on open fires.
Ukraine’s prosecutor-general’s office said Tuesday it was also looking into events in the Brovary district, which lies to the northeast of the capital.
It said the bodies of six civilians were found with gunshot wounds in a basement in the village of Shevchenkove and Russian forces were believed to be responsible.
Prosecutors are also investigating allegations that Russian forces fired on a convoy of civilians trying to leave by car from the village of Peremoha in the Brovary district, killing four people including a 13-year-old boy.
In another attack near Bucha, five people were killed including two children when a car was fired upon, prosecutors said.