I hesitated sharing this. Some things are so vile, so reprehensible, that it’s important not to amplify or otherwise spread. But I decided to pause and look at this, because it’s important to not look away. Because it’s necessary to understand what the Ukrainians—indeed all of us in the civilized world—are up against.
Since the launch of Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine and the escalating collection of atrocities against civilians, it’s become increasingly hard to believe in the notion of a modern world defined by progress. Barbaric images of violence have led to a growing outcry that Russia is engaged in genocide—including from President Biden. But this audio from an intercepted call of a Russian soldier and his wife or girlfriend (released by the Ukraine Security Service) sent me over the edge.
Her: So yeah, do it over there. Ukrainian chicks there. Rape them. Yeah. Don’t tell me anything, understand?
She laughs. Her partner seems surprised.
Him: So should I rape and not tell you anything?
Her: Yes, so that I wouldn’t know anything.
They both laugh.
Her: Why do you ask?
Him: Can I, really?
Her: Yeah, I allow you. Just use protection.
She laughs again.
Soldiers raping women in wartime is not anything new. In the 20th century, this weapon of war was acknowledged in Article 27 of the Geneva Conventions, a 1949 statute concerning the protection of civilians in war “against any attack on their honour, in particular against rape, enforced prostitutions, or any form of indecent assault.”
Systematic rape was defined as a crime against humanity in 1993 by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. It was called a war crime by the UN’s Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995. In 1998, the International Criminal Court gained jurisdiction over rape cases and in 2008 the UN Security Council declared that “rape and other forms of sexual violence can constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.”
In his book Berlin: The Downfall 1945, Antony Beevor wrote that “Russian soldiers raped every German female from eight to 80.” Some estimates have concluded that two million German women were raped by Soviet Red Army soldiers during the last year of WWII. “If anything,” Beevor wrote, “the events of 1945 reveal how thin the veneer of civilization can be when there is little fear of retribution. It also suggests a much darker side to male sexuality than we might care to admit.”
In the weeks and months ahead, there will be other brutal lessons emanating from the sick, profoundly unnecessary attack on Ukraine and its people. As the statistics mount, it may become increasingly hard to grasp the level of savagery Putin has unleashed. Perhaps this one terrible story of a Russian wife or girlfriend, who urges her man to rape Ukrainian women, is the only thing you’ll ever need to remember that war is hell and human decency and civilization must be fought for every single day.