Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Russia's notorious mercenary organization, the Wagner Group, has indicated he supports allowing convicted women to serve on the front lines in Ukraine. In a letter from Vyacheslav Wegner, Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Sverdlovsk region, Prigozhin indicated that he is now prepared to send female inmates into Ukraine. His support extends to positions other than combat support roles. [i]
According to Wegner’s letter published by Prigozhin’s press service, a team of women inmates recently approached Wegner. The women are serving sentences in Russia’s penal colony number 6, IK-6, also known as Black Dolphin prison. Black Dolphin prison is known for housing Russia’s most dangerous killers. [ii]
Despite this, Wegner confidently says that women are,
Ready to go to the zone of a special military operation as signalmen, doctors, nurses, to provide all possible assistance to our servicemen there. [iii]
Prigozhin not only agreed that women should be able to serve in exchange for commuted sentences, but he also took it one step further, stating,
I absolutely agree with you. Not only nurses and signalmen but also in sabotage groups and sniper pairs. Everyone knows that it was widely used. We are working in this direction. There is resistance, but I think we will press on. [iv]
The stipulations for female prisoners would mirror those of males in that Prigozhin says those who agree to fight in the ongoing war shall have their sentences commuted. Some believe the effort to be a desperate attempt to boost Russia’s troop numbers. [v]
Watch the video below for more on the Black Dolphin prison.
Specifically, Olga Romanova, who heads a Russian Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) that protects convicts’ rights, spoke against using inmates. Romanova asserts that many male prisoners who agreed to sign up and fight for 180 days to receive a pardon from Putin have either been “killed, gone missing, or deserted.” [vi]
The recent request to allow women to serve follows the November 2022 revelation by Ukraine’s Head Office of the President, Andrii Yermak. Yermak indicated that many criminals had been sent straight into battle without appropriate protection or weapons, being used as “expendable soldiers” or “cannon fodder.” [vii]
Many say Wagner will “have as little regard for their [female inmates'] lives as they do for the lives of the convicted male criminals currently serving on the front lines in Bakhmut.” Ukrainians assert that Russian ‘camels’ are equipped only with machine guns, no armor or helmet, to raid the Ukrainian’s positions. [vii]
Women's willingness to sign-up may also be a result of the much-discussed conditions of Russia's prisons, particularly for women. One former inmate, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, shared that women had to work 16 to 17 hours a day while incarcerated. In addition, they were only allotted a single day off every eight weeks. Many inmates suffer abuse and beatings. [viii]
See the letter submitted by Vyacheslav Wegner below.
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[i] Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Wegner, Appeal of the Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of the Sverdlovsk region (Dec. 20, 2022)
[vi] London Loves Business, Wagner chief ‘will press on’ with recruiting female prisoners after around 43,000 mercenaries have been ‘killed or deserted’ (Jan. 24, 2023)
[vii] The Daily Digest, Wagner PMC founder wants to send women to fight in Ukraine (Jan. 8, 2023)
[viii] Vadim Meshcheryakov, Tony Wesolowsky, Inside Russia’s most infamous women’s prison, where inmates reportedly lose fingers working, and kittens get tossed into blazing furnaces (Feb. 25, 2019)
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