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Prisoners at Correctional Colony No. 2 in Ulyanovka

‘You’ll be nothing but cannon fodder’ Russian Defense Ministry reportedly recruiting inmates from women’s prison to serve as snipers in Ukraine

Source: iStories
Prisoners at Correctional Colony No. 2 in Ulyanovka
Prisoners at Correctional Colony No. 2 in Ulyanovka
Russian Federal Penitentiary Service, St. Petersburg and Leningrad region

With the Kremlin seeking to avoid a second round of mobilization for as long as possible, the Russian Defense Ministry has continued to find new ways to fill the army’s ranks. According to the news outlet iStories, one of the ministry’s “solutions” has been to recruit inmates from a women’s prison in Russia’s Leningrad region. While the Ukrainian military reported that Russia was recruiting women inmates as early as March 2023, this appears to be the first specific instance of the practice that journalists have been able to confirm.

The Russian Defense Ministry has begun recruiting inmates from a women’s prison in the country’s Leningrad region to fight in the war against Ukraine, the independent outlet iStories reported on Monday, citing multiple former inmates of the institution who learned about the campaign from their friends still serving sentences.

According to the former prisoners, Defense Ministry representatives began making recruitment trips to Correctional Colony No. 2 in the village of Ulyanovka in fall 2023. They have reportedly offered prisoners contracts to serve in sniper and assault units, including two months of training before their deployment and amnesty when they complete their service.

Between 20 and 50 women have agreed to these terms, though none of them have left the prison yet, according to iStories. One woman reportedly agreed to serve as a sniper but changed her mind after three months of waiting because she had less than a year left in prison.

One former inmate told iStories that she tried to convince her friends in prison not to take the Defense Ministry’s offer. “I told them [over the phone], ‘Do you realize that you’ll be under fire? You’ll be nothing but cannon fodder. The men don’t survive.’ But they all want to go home,” she said.

Journalists from iStories reached out to the prison, which told them to contact the regional branch of the Federal Penitentiary Service (FSIN). They sent a written request to the FSIN and have so far not received a response.

According to iStories, this is the first specific case of the Russian military recruiting female prisoners that its journalists are aware of, though the Ukrainian military has previously reported on the practice.

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