Russia is forcibly enlisting women convicts, Ukraine claims

Russia is ‘press-ganging women convicts in occupied Ukraine into joining Putin’s army’, Kyiv military claims

  • Ukrainian intelligence suggests women are being pressured into combat roles
  • News follows MoD reports that Russia has depleted its forces with wave attacks
  • Russia admitted women to its air force in October 2022, the first since WWII

Ukraine has alleged that Russia is forcibly enlisting women into its army to replenish numbers for human wave attacks.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement yesterday Russia had this week ‘recruited about 50 people from the women’s correctional colony in the city of Snizhne in the temporarily occupied territory of the Donetsk region’.

‘It is also known that they were sent to the territory of the Russian Federation for training.’

The report said: ‘In order to make up for the loss of manpower, the enemy is trying to attract convicted women to participate in the hostilities.’ 

The Armed Forces of Ukraine previously reported in December that 28 Russian women had been drafted and sent for training to compensate for losses of units in the 1st Army Corps.

Russia does not usually deploy women in combat roles. 

President Vladimir Putin (pictured) intends to deploy women in combat roles, intel suggests

‘Night Witches’: women deployed by Stalin in WWII in the Soviet air force from October 1941

On Friday, the UK’s Ministry of Defence reported that Russia was struggling to maintain its supply of convicts and would not be able to rely on ‘human wave-style assault’ any longer.

A Russian source, likely an insider within mercenary group Wagner Group, shared that as a result of the suicidal tactics of Wagner Group squads, ‘losses are growing and progress [slowing] down’. 

Wagner Group is a Russian paramilitary organisation, first deployed in the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and now a private extension of the Russian army in Ukraine with close ties to Putin. 

Wagner Group and the Russian Army have used battalions staffed with former convicts – promised their freedom for reliable service – since last year.

Experts and insiders have documented Russia’s approach of sending wave after wave of prisoners with ‘nothing to lose’ to advance the frontline.

White House spokesman John Kirby said in January that an estimated 50,000 fighters from Wagner Group were currently in Ukraine, about 40,000 of which are convicts. 

The conscription of women to Russia’s combined forces would be a new development in the war as Putin looks to build up numbers.

Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, said that Russia is preparing for ‘maximum escalation’ of the war in the coming weeks.

Ukraine anticipates a three-pronged attack from the north, south and east of the country to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the war on 24 February 2023. 

Ukraine’s top general, Valery Zaluzhny, told The Economist last month that Russia was preparing 200,000 fresh troops for a major spring offensive.

In September last year, Putin ordered a partial mobilisation of troops after months of setbacks to Russia’s campaign.

Russia’s defence minister, Sergei Shoigu, said at the time Russia would draft 300,000 reservists to support its military campaign.

This proved difficult. According to Noyava Gazeta Europe, 261,000 men left Russia between when the partial mobilisation was declared and 26 September.

Russia denied other reports that 700,000 had left. 

Struggling to replenish lines, Russia reportedly started conscripting the homeless.

Female graduates of Krasnodar Military Aviation Academy pictured in October 2022

Female grads of Russian aviation school, the first since WWII, pictured in October last year 

In October 2022, pictures released by the Russian Ministry of Defence (above) showed female graduates of the Krasnodar Military Aviation Academy.

This was the first time that women had been permitted to fly in the Russian air force since World War II.

Josef Stalin’s ‘Night Witches’ were the all-female military aviators of the 588th Night Bomber Regiment. 

They were brought into the war in October 1941 after Germany’s invasion of the Soviet Union in June.

The ‘press ganging’ of Russian women to support Russia’s penal battalions in ‘human wave’ attacks has not so far been reported. 

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