A psychologist says she broke down in tears when she learned the horrors that 2 castrated Ukrainian soldiers endured, says report

  • A Ukrainian psychologist described the horrors two soldiers went through in a new report by The Times.

  • Anzhelika Yatsenko cried when she learned the young men were castrated while prisoners of Russia.

  • It was "the first time I behaved not like a professional psychologist," she told The Times.

A Ukrainian psychologist described the horrors her patients were forced to go through in a new report that details the impacts of sexual violence against men in the Ukraine war.

Two Ukrainian soldiers, who had been prisoners in Russian captivity, were referred to 41-year-old psychologist Anzhelika Yatsenko after they were released in a prisoner swap, Christina Lamb, The Sunday Times chief foreign correspondent, reported.

The soldiers struggled to tell their psychologist, who specializes in troubled young men, what happened to them. When Yatsenko, who works in Poltava, finally learned what had happened to the two young fighters who had been castrated, she said it was so horrible that she struggled to act professionally, The Times reported.

"I knew from previous cases they had probably been tortured," Yatsenko said. "As someone who gets referred the hardest cases, mostly men under 35, it's very hard to surprise me."

But when the fighters, 25 and 28 years old, told her what they had experienced, it was "the first time I behaved not like a professional psychologist."

"I'd never heard anything so horrible. I told them I needed the bathroom and went and cried and cried. I didn't want them to see as they might think there's no hope," she told The Times.

The two soldiers had been brutally beaten, and drunken Russians castrated them with a knife while they were imprisoned — at the time, they thought they might die. After their return, they were suicidal, The Times reported.

The torture does not just take a physical toll, Yatsenko, but also the painful psychological effect of no longer being able to be sexually active.

The experience of the tortured prisoners of war highlights an often minimized aspect of the cruelty of war. While sexual violence against women and girls is widely covered in the context of war, sexual violence against men is less well-documented.

On both sides of the conflict, prisoners of war have faced violent and inhumane conditions — some may amount to war crimes, the UN recently found.

The story of the treatment of these soldiers comes as Ukraine's counteroffensive is underway, and the Ukrainian forces try to break through and liberate Russian-held territory.

Ukraine is facing a "very difficult fight," a US military official recently said. "It is a very violent fight. And it will likely take a considerable amount of time at high cost."

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