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15 Sep, 2022 15:30 

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Ukrainian women assaulted by compatriot who mistook them for Russians

The attacker, who was initially believed to be Russian, turned out to be a former Ukrainian soldier

FILE PHOTO  © Getty Images / SimonSkafar

Police have arrested a man responsible for assaulting two Ukrainian women in France. While he was initially believed to be Russian, a press release by the prosecutor in Nice on Wednesday has revealed the assailant is in fact a former Ukrainian soldier.

The two victims, Ukrainian refugees Alina and her mother Elena, initially reported that their assailant was a Russian-speaking man who apparently attacked them for listening to Ukrainian music on their phones as they were walking along the beach.

“When we heard how he spoke, we understood” that he was Russian, Alina told local news outlets. The two women sustained several injuries in the attack as doctors say Elena has a broken nose, while Alina may have suffered a concussion.

When it was first reported, the incident drew outrage from Kiev as the media and several officials were quick to report that the assailant was Russian. In response to the reports, many commenters wrote on social media that the incident was an example of how dangerous Russian people were.

The spokesperson for the country’s Foreign Ministry, Oleg Nikolenko, insisted that “the aggressors must be punished” and called for an immediate and thorough investigation into the attack while Ukraine’s Embassy in France denounced the assault as a “heinous incident.”

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On Tuesday, French police arrested a man who had confessed to attacking the two women. He turned out to be a 33-year-old man who had arrived in France seven months ago after having previously served in the Ukrainian military. Police say the man admitted assaulting the women, but downplayed the severity of his attack and insisted he merely “slapped” them, as reported by the 20 Minutes news outlet. The Ukrainian also stated that he thought the women he attacked were Russian nationals because of their “Russian accent.”

According to the Nice prosecutor, the assailant now faces up to three years in prison and a fine of €45,000 ($45,000) for race-based violence. The hearing is expected to take place in November.

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