Get updates delivered to you daily. Free and customizable.
Russia Is Turning to Women Prisoners to Boost Forces After Massive Losses, Ukraine Claims
By Dan Ladden-Hall,
Russian prisoners have been thrown into the meat-grinder battlefields of Ukraine since the invasion began last year. But as massive numbers of casualties have made the situation increasingly desperate for the Kremlin, reports have emerged that female convicts are now also being sent to the frontline.
In an update on Monday, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Russia has turned to “alternative sources of replenishment of manpower” against a background of “large losses of personnel in the war.” “So, last week, the movement of a train with first-class carriages for the transportation of prisoners towards the Donetsk region was noted,” the ministry wrote on Telegram. “One of the wagons contained female prisoners.”
The allegation was bolstered by human rights activist and Russia Behind Bars founder Olga Romanova , who said she heard reports of women prisoners being sent to Ukraine late last year. “They were taken from the colonies of southern Russia,” Romanova told Important Stories . “I don’t know the exact zone, but they worked in Kushchevskaya [in Russia’s Krasnodar Territory]. For about two months they were kept in agriculture, greenhouses and cowsheds.” Romanova said the estimated 100 women were then sent to Ukraine, though it’s unclear how they were deployed.
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine made similar allegations on Feb. 4, alleging that Russia was “trying to attract convicted women to participate in hostilities.”
“Over the course of a week, the occupiers recruited about 50 people from the women’s correctional colony of the city of Snizhne in the temporarily occupied territory of the Donetsk region,” the General Staff said . “It is also known that they were sent to the territory of the Russian Federation for training.”
Even Russian sources have given credence to the idea of using female prisoners in bolstering Vladimir Putin’s war effort. In December Vyacheslav Wegner, Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the west-central Sverdlovsk Region, wrote to Yevgeny Prigozhin —the founder of the mercenary Wagner Group —saying he had been “approached by a team of women serving sentences” asking to serve in the “special military operation.”
“They are ready to go to the zone of a special military operation as signalmen, doctors, nurses, to provide all possible assistance to our servicemen there,” Wegner wrote . “I think they can help our country.” Prigozhin replied to say the convicts could be useful “not only nurses and signalers, but also in sabotage groups and sniper pairs.”
“We are working in this direction,” Prigozhin added. “There is resistance, but I think we will press on.”
The latest reports of female Russian prisoners being sent to Ukraine comes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed over 1,100 Russian soldiers had been killed in bitter fighting in the eastern city of Bakhmut in less than a week. General Staff spokesperson Oleksandr Shtupun separately said that 1,090 Russian fighters died on Saturday alone, in what may be the deadliest day for Moscow since the invasion began.
The figures have not been independently verified, but international observers have suggested shortages in personnel and ammunition are creating major operational issues for Russian commanders. A British intelligence update on Tuesday said that depleted ammo supplies had led to “extremely punitive shell-rationing” all over the front. “Russia has almost certainly already resorted to issuing old munitions stock which were previously categorized as unfit for use,” the update added.