By James Orange •
Updated: 14 Mar 2023 • 14:08
Russian army - Image Vektorkel / Shutterstock.com
Massive casualties in the fighting in Ukraine has led Russian President Vladimir Putin to seek “alternative sources of replenishment of manpower”, the Ukranian armed forces General Staff claims.
‘Last week there was a movement towards the Donetsk region of a train with reserved seats for transporting prisoners. One of the carriages [was for] convicted women,’ said a statement.
Earlier this week, there were reports the Kremlin had moved female convicts to Kuschevka in Krasnodar region, close to the war zone. Olga Romanova, of Russian Behind Bars foundation, believes around 100 women were sent to Ukraine.
Male prisoners have been recruited in Russia in their tens of thousands and offered a deal which reduces their sentences if they serve – and stay alive – for six months at the front line. This has seen murderers, rapists and other violent criminals released and ultimately freed by Putin, with most convicts serving with the Wagner private army.
But Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin claimed last month that his group will no longer recruit prisoners to fight in Ukraine – without providing an explanation as to why.
However, there is now evidence that the Russian defence ministry is signing up convicts directly.
Last month the Ukrainian general staff said that Russia was actively ‘trying to recruit convicted women to participate in the hostilities’. This was to ‘compensate for losses in personnel’.
Even before the war broke out, and amid long-term personnel shortages in the Russian Armed Forces, the Kremlin has made little effort to enlist women until now.
Although throughout the 2010’s many women sought to join the armed forces, they were not permitted in front line combat roles, barred from holding ranks higher than colonel and denied jobs as drivers, mechanics, snipers or gunners.
Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu stated in May 2020 that approximately 41,000 women were enlisted in the Russian Armed Forces, according to Metro.
Prigozhin, head of Wagner, said there had been ‘resistance’ among the Russian authorities to deploy women in the war zone.
However, reports suggest females are now being deployed, although their precise role is unknown.
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