Ukraine invasion: Ukrainian police investigate allegations of sexual violence by Russian soldiers against civilians

Ukrainian police have received around 50 complaints and opened 16 criminal investigations into allegations of sexual violence committed by Russian soldiers against civilians, Ukraine's deputy interior minister said on Friday (local time).

Ukraine, its international allies and the United Nations human rights office have been investigating potential war crimes, including sexual violence, in Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion in February.

Moscow denies committing war crimes or targeting civilians during a war that has killed thousands and forced millions of people, mostly women and children, to flee abroad.

"As for sexual violence against the civilian population, this is a very difficult topic," deputy minister Kateryna Pavlichenko told a briefing.

"A topic that, as a rule, the victims do not want to talk about, because the fear and pain that they experienced ... they want to forget as soon as possible."

Russian forces retreated from areas around the capital after failing to capture Kyiv in the early weeks of the war. Out of the 16 cases opened by police, 13 related to incidents in the Kyiv region.