women soldiers

Russian Women in the Face of War Against Ukraine

March 26, 2024
Egle E. Murauskaite

This is a summary of a report originally published by FPRI.

The author writes:

  • Russia’s war against Ukraine has revealed stories about the heroic resistance efforts of Ukrainian women… However, comparable stories have been entirely lacking on Russia’s side.
    • Stories of rape and abuse in Russian-occupied Ukrainian territories have shaken the world, with male Russian soldiers featured as systematic perpetrators. Perhaps it is only a matter of time until stories of Russian women involved in these crimes start to emerge.
  • Throughout 2023, stories had started to emerge of Russian servicewomen being forced into sexual relations by their superiors. This paints a picture of Russian servicewomen less like heroic combatants…and more like the victims of life’s circumstances pushed into the army ranks.
  • [Russian] government efforts have recently extended to try and [recruit] more women [into the military] … though the proposed roles were for only cooks and medical staff.
  • Ukraine’s Military Intelligence Directorate has published a list of members of the 64th motorized rifle brigade [allegedly involved in the massacre in Bucha town]. Among those 1,648 names, sixty-five (or 4 percent) were women.
    • Ukrainian women veterans recounted numerous Russian women in the fighter ranks…being particularly brutal torturers.
  • [Following the Soviet training of civilian women as snipers], the notion seems to have deeply permeated the Russian psyche that any civilian woman of the opposing side could be an undercover sharpshooter—and thus a legitimate target.
  • In 2022, Ukrainian security services have made public a telephone conversation between a Russian serviceman and his wife, who encouraged him to rape Ukrainian women.
    • It may be helpful to realize a not-uncommon complicity of civilian women in war crimes in recent historical contexts. 
  • It is important to note the prominent role of the traditional anti-war activism of women whose husbands or family members have been called to serve in Ukraine.
    • The Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers (CSM) has been particularly active. 
    • In anti-mobilization rallies, women comprised 51 to 71 percent of all protesters.

Read the full report at FPRI.


Egle E. Murauskaite

Egle E. Murauskaite is a senior faculty specialist at the University of Maryland.

The opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author. Photo by Russian Defense Ministry (Mil.ru) shared under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.