Filmmaker fights in Ukraine with memories of assault

STORY: Filmmaker Alisa Kovalenko now shoots with a gun, instead of her camera.

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February – she volunteered to fight on the eastern front.

She says she was outraged about the invasion - and flooded with memories of a sexual assault she survived eight years ago.

“I promised to myself, it was after 2014, that if war covers all Ukraine, then I will fight not with my camera but with a gun.”

Kovalenko said she was working on a film in the Donetsk region in 2014 when she was stopped at a separatist checkpoint, interrogated and accused of being a sniper.

She alleges a Russian officer tried to rape her.

“I was not afraid of anything after it. // Even when I went to the war I was not so afraid about war.”

Russian authorities did not immediately respond to requests for comment about her account.

Moscow regularly denied sending troops to separatists at the time and has dismissed sexual violence allegations by its forces as lies and propaganda.

Kovalenko has now spent months under shelling on the frontline, far from her husband and young son in France.

She also lost a close friend.

“You feel like it is somebody from your family who died. For me, it was the most terrible experience in my life.”

Moscow calls the invasion a "special military operation" to demilitarize its neighbor and root out nationalists.

Ukraine and its Western allies say that is a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war of aggression.

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