The Russian government has reportedly sent women prisoners to the front line in Ukraine for the first time to make up for heavy losses.
The Ukrainian army has claimed President Vladimir Putin has sought ‘alternative sources of replenishment of manpower’ due to ‘heavy losses’ in the war.
It added: ‘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.’
Earlier this week, there were reports that Russia had moved women 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.
Over the months, male prisoners have been recruited in Russia in their tens of thousands and offered a deal that cancels their sentences if they serve and stay alive for six months on the frontline.
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 directly signing up convicts.
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’.
Some had been recruited from a women’s penal colony in Snezhnoye, a city in the occupied Donetsk region.
‘It is also known that they are sent to the territory of the Russian Federation for training,’ the Ukrainian general staff said.
Several hundred women in prisons in the Sverdlovsk region in the Ural District – asked local MP Vyacheslav Wegner to send them to Ukraine, it was reported.
Prigozhin, head of Wagner, said there had been ‘resistance’ among the Russian authorities to deploy women in the war zone.