Russian women capture snipers in Ukraine

Russian women capture snipers in Ukraine

Updated 00.51 | Published 00.11



They are convicted criminals and in many cases severely alcoholic.

Now the women will fight for Putin as snipers.

– I had never held a weapon, says Jelena, who was recruited in the prison.

  • Russia recruits female prisoners for military service in Ukraine. Women have been released from a prison in St. Petersburg on the promise of a high salary and pardon if they survive a year in Ukraine.
  • The women can choose between becoming snipers, field medics and radio operators.
  • Ex-prisoners believe that the recruitment is accepted because of the miserable conditions in the prisons. According to Radio Free Europe, up to 1,000 women may have been recruited.
  • ⓘ The summary is made with the support of AI tools from OpenAI and quality assured by Aftonbladet. Read our AI policy here.

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    Russia has approximately 30,000 female prisoners locked up in the country’s prisons.

    Soon a number of them may be fighting for Putin at the front in Ukraine.

    At the end of May, a group of women were released from a prison outside St. Petersburg after being recruited into the war.

    Are pardoned if they survive

    Military representatives came to the prison and took with them the women who agreed to be recruited.

    In exchange, they received a relatively high salary and not having to serve the remaining time – if they survive a year in Ukraine.

    According to two ex-prisoners, who are in contact with women who are still serving their sentences, for The New York Times.


    full screen 50 women from Ulyanovka prison have signed contracts to go to the war in Ukraine. The photo is from an earlier time.

    The move could mean a new strategy for the Russian war machine.

    Since before, a large number of men have been recruited from Russian prisons and thrown into the war without any direct training.

    Became snipers

    Many died in the so-called “meat grinder” where soldiers were used in massive advances to lure Ukrainian troops from their defensive positions along the front.

    Recruitment at women’s prisons is said to have been ongoing since last year. But until now, most recruited women seem to have been allowed to remain incarcerated without explanation, states The New York Times.

    Officially, Russian authorities have not commented anything on the prisoner program in the war effort.

    When the military visited the women’s prison outside St. Petersburg last year, the prisoners had to choose between becoming snipers, field medics and radio operators.

    About 40 of 400 prisoners signed, according to The New York Times sources.


    full screen Russian snipers in Ukraine in April. Photo: Russian Ministry of Defense Via AP

    Must be quiet at all times

    They were offered a salary of around SEK 20,000 a month for a year in Ukraine.

    The ex-prisoners the newspaper spoke to chose the women to write despite the recruiters clearly describing the dangers that lay ahead.

    The sources believe that the reason is the miserable conditions prevailing in Russian prisons.

    The prisoners at the prison in question outside of St. Petersburg are forced to be quiet all the time and work twelve hours a day in the prison’s sewing factory, in winter in bitter cold.

    Already last year, women from other parts of Russia were sent into the fighting.

    “Never held a weapon”

    Radio Free Europe spoke to Jelena, who was recruited from a women’s prison in the Lipetsk region of western Russia last year.

    She was convicted of drug offences.

    – I have no specific education. I worked as a salesperson for many years, says Jelena to Radio Free Europe.

    – They didn’t ask for anything. They just checked my age and health and signed me up as a sniper. What a joke. I had never held a gun.


    full screenPutin takes to new tricks to get more men to the front in Ukraine. Photo: Alexander Kazakov / AP

    Snipers described by the Swedish Armed Forces in Sweden as “an exclusive group of hunters whose tasks are to disrupt the enemy’s advance, strike terror into the enemy and kill key personnel”.

    Once Jelena donned the Russian uniform, however, it wasn’t as a sniper.

    – I ended up working as a paramedic for a unit in Donetsk. Now I feel like I was lucky because I heard that many people from the same prison are now dead, she says.

    Drug addicts and thieves

    – I still don’t know if they did what they said and trained women to become snipers and pilots. I myself never ended up at the front with the unit. I mostly had to cook and fight off soldiers who bumped into me.

    A friend of another female prisoner recruit tells the site that most of those sent to the war from women’s prisons are addicted to alcohol or drugs.

    – Do you understand what kind of people it is about? They are hardened addicts, they are thieves, she says.

    According to Radio Free Europe approximately 1,000 women were recruited in the first wave last year. Now the Kremlin may have launched a new attempt.