• Russia is recruiting female convicts to boost its military forces, a Ukrainian intelligence spokesperson said.
  • Moscow wants to recruit the convicts to auxiliary and combat roles, the Kyiv Post reported.
  • More than 100,000 convicts from Russian penal colonies have reportedly been conscripted to fight in Ukraine.

Russia is recruiting female convicts to bolster its war effort in Ukraine, the Kyiv Post reported, citing a Ukrainian intelligence spokesperson.

The women are promised financial incentives and the prospect of freedom in exchange for their service, the report said.

Andriy Yusov, a spokesperson for Ukraine's military intelligence service (HUR), told the Kyiv Post: "We are not only talking about auxiliary units, but combat units as well if needed."

The role of women in the war has expanded rapidly since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The fate of many of the Russian female convicts recruited is bleak, however, with only a few making it back alive, Yusov claimed.

"Most of the women prisoners recruited by Russia have been killed or returned with serious injuries," he said.

The practice of offering convicts freedom in exchange for military service in Ukraine began under Yevgeny Prigozhin, the late founder of the mercenary Wagner Group.

More than 100,000 convicts from Russian penal colonies have been conscripted to fight in Ukraine so far, Vladimir Osechkin, a Russian human rights activist who runs the prisoners' rights group Gulagu.net, told Newsweek in December.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin, has defended Russia's use of prisoners in the war, saying that they "atone with blood for crimes on the battlefield, in assault brigades, under bullets, under shells."

In January, the UK Ministry of Defence reported that Russia was on course to lose 500,000 troops by the end of 2024 after turning its forces into a "low quality, high quantity mass army."

Business Insider contacted the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment.

"War doesn't care whether you are a man or a woman"

A soldier studies FPV drone control during training at a drone school on October 26, 2023, in Zaporizhzhia Oblast, Ukraine. Foto: Elena Tita/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images

Ukrainian women have been joining the military in significant numbers since Russia's full-scale invasion in 2022.

Ukraine's Ministry of Defense reported a more than 40% increase in female soldiers in its forces between 2021 and 2023, with around 43,000 women serving in military roles as of October 2023.

The BBC reported in August 2023 that 5,000 women were serving on the front lines.

"A war doesn't care whether you are a man or a woman. When a missile hits a house, it doesn't care if there are women, men, children - everyone dies," Sniper Evgenya Emerald told the BBC.

"And it's the same on the front line if you can be effective and you're a woman, why wouldn't you defend your country, your people?"

Ukraine's defense ministry opened up more combat positions to women in 2016 and again in 2018, meaning they could serve in roles such as infantry or snipers, CNBC previously reported.

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