Motria Oleksiienko, 99, traumatized by the Russian occupation, is comforted by Tetiana Oleksiienko on Wednesday in a room without heating in the village of Andriivka, Ukraine, heavily affected by fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces. Several buildings in the village were reduced to mounds of bricks and corrugated metal and residents struggle without heat, electricity or cooking gas. Credit: Vadim Ghirda / AP

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Four years after the Soviet Army fought its way into Berlin in 1945, Moscow built a huge memorial in Treptower Park to the 80,000 Russian and other Soviet soldiers who died taking the city. (Five thousand of them are actually buried in the park.) And Berliners instantly took to calling it the “Tomb of the Unknown Rapist.”

Russian film director Zakhar Agranenko, who fought in Germany in 1945, wrote in his diary that “Red Army soldiers don’t believe in ‘individual liaisons’ with German women. Nine, 10, 12 men at a time — they rape them on a collective basis.” Historian Antony Beevor estimated that up to 2 million German women were raped, many of them multiple times.

The atrocities that are being uncovered in northern Ukraine as the Russian army moves its troops east are different in scale and in style. The number of  civilians murdered in the occupied towns is in the low thousands at most, and the rapes probably in the hundreds or less. There are few reports of gang rapes. Yet it is essentially the same phenomenon.

The Russian soldiers were young, frightened and often drunk. No excuse. They had been lied to, and kept asking villagers where the Nazis are. No excuse. They serve in an army that can’t feed them, doesn’t supervise them and doesn’t even make them get rid of the evidence before they left. No excuse.

Russians are not evil. War is such an extreme situation that many evil things become possible, and it is an army’s duty to prevent them from happening. The Russian army is too corrupt and incompetent to try, so its soldiers ended up with the unlimited, unsupervised power of life or death over innocent civilians.

They flagrantly abused it, and in doing so they have wrought irreversible changes in two countries: Ukraine and their own.

For Ukraine, they have virtually eliminated the possibility of a negotiated peace with Moscow so long as Russian troops are on Ukrainian soil.

Listen to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy speaking to Ukrainian journalists on Monday: “Ukraine will definitely not be what we wanted it to be from the beginning. It is impossible. We will become a ‘big Israel’ with its own face.

“[Don’t] be surprised if we have [soldiers] in cinemas, supermarkets — people with weapons … Security will be issue number one for the next 10 years.” That’s Ukraine’s future: a “big Israel,” armed to the teeth and permanently awaiting the next attack.

And Russia is stuck with the big lie for a generation. Perhaps Russians could find a way to apologize for invading Ukraine if they got rid of Vladimir Putin, but it’s unthinkable that they will ever acknowledge how their army has behaved in Ukraine. They’re still denying what happened in Berlin in 1945.

“Ukraine, as history has shown, is unviable as a national state, and attempts to ‘build’ one logically lead to Nazism,” the analyst Timofei Sergeitsev wrote. Even the name “Ukraine” must be abolished, and the country will become part of the Motherland after victory under the name Little Russia (Malorossia).

It will then require a strong military presence for 30 years to re-educate “the Nazified mass of the population, which technically cannot be subjected to direct punishment as war criminals.” Collaborators with the “Nazi regime” will be sentenced to death or imprisonment, and everybody else will live happily ever after.

Sergeitsev is not some nutcase nobody. He was the political adviser to Ukrainian ex-president Viktor Yanukovych, a Russian puppet who was overthrown in a popular uprising in 2014 after he canceled an association agreement with the European Union and started negotiating a trade deal with Russia instead.

Sergeitsev may even be Moscow’s candidate for puppet ruler of occupied Ukraine once resistance is crushed. In any case, everybody now knows exactly where they stand, which means this war will go on until Ukraine is destroyed or Russia is defeated.

The stakes are getting higher, and we can no longer exclude the possibility that Russia will use poison gas or mini-nukes in Ukraine if it faces defeat in the conventional war. Yet knowing all this, how can NATO abandon Ukraine to its fate now?

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Gwynne Dyer, Opinion columnist

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose commentary is published in 45 countries.