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Russia has started sending female convicts to fight in Ukraine: report

Kwan Wei Kevin Tan   

Russia has started sending female convicts to fight in Ukraine: report
  • Female convicts are joining Russia's war efforts against Ukraine, per The New York Times.
  • Inmates were promised pardons and a monthly salary of $2,000 during recruitment.

Russia's military is starting to tap into another source of manpower — female convicts.

A group of female convicts were released from a prison near St. Petersburg last month to fight in Ukraine, The New York Times reported on Monday, citing two former inmates it had spoken to.

According to The Times, roughly 10% of the prison's 400 inmates signed on with the military last year.

Military recruiters had offered the inmates one-year contracts as combat medics, frontline radio operators, and snipers, per The Times.

In addition to pardons, recruits would also receive a monthly salary of $2,000, The Times reported.

This is the first time enlisted female convicts are reported to have been sent to join the fighting in Ukraine. The female inmates had remained in prison even after signing on last year, per The Times' interviews with former and current inmates.

It's unclear if this release of female convicts is the start of a larger, nationwide program. Russia's defense ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment from BI sent outside regular business hours.

The Russian military's reliance on attrition warfare has seen it turn to unorthodox and controversial recruitment measures to fuel its war effort.

Prison inmates have long been a staple in the Russian Armed Forces. Back in December 2022, the US Department of Defense estimated that the Russian mercenary organization, the Wagner Group, had around 40,000 prisoners serving on the front lines.

Russia has recruited so many inmates that its prison population has plummeted significantly. Russia's Deputy Justice Minister Vsevolod Vukolov said in October that the country's prison population had plunged from 420,000 before the war to 266,000, a historic low, per The Washington Post.

Earlier in March, a local official told lawmakers that some prisons had to be closed because of "a one-time large reduction in the number of convicts," per the Russian newspaper Kommersant.

And it's not just inmates.

Russian officials have begun setting their sights on the country's African migrants. African migrant workers and students have been threatened with deportation if they do not agree to fight in Ukraine, Bloomberg reported on Sunday.

But funnelling its population into the military risks exacerbating Russia's already precarious labor market.

In December, the Russian Academy of Science's Institute of Economics said that Russia's economy had a shortage of around 5 million workers.

"Unemployment is 3%, and in some regions, it is even lower. This means there are practically no workers left in the economy," Russian Central Bank Gov. Elvira Nabiullina said in November.


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