Staunton, Aug. 4 – Moscow’s effort to recruit male prisoners to fight both in Ukraine both in PMCs like the Wagner Group and the regular Russian military has long attracted attention, but much less has been directed at a related program: the recruitment of female prisoners to take part in the conflict.
That Moscow is now focusing on the recruitment of women prisoners is yet another indication of the demographic and practical difficulties that the Russian regime faces in maintaining a military force in Ukraine in the face of mounting losses and increasing clashes with Ukrainian units.
This latest and as yet little-reported effort in various Russian penal institutions for women has been reported by Olga Romanova, the founder of the Russia Behind Bars human rights organization (t.me/mozhemobyasnit/15824 and novayagazeta.eu/articles/2023/08/05/u-voiny-i-zhenskoe-litso). Other groups have confirmed her report (t.me/sotaproject/63865).
According to Romanova, women prisoners are being recruited for Russian forces not only in female prisons and camps but in holding cells prior to trial where it appears they are being offered the chance to avoid criminal charges completely if they agree to fight for Moscow in Ukraine.
The exact number of women involved is unknown. Approximately eight percent of all incarcerated in Russia are women, which would amount to some 35,000 to 37,000 people. The defense ministry says there are 1100 women in Russian forces in Ukraine but how many are former prisoners has not been reported (m.lenta.ru/news/2023/03/07/zhenshinysvo/amp/).