Russian PMC trying to recruit women into combat roles in Ukraine for first time: UK

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A Russian state-backed private military company (PMC) is specifically trying to recruit women into combat roles in Ukraine for the first time, a UK intelligence update revealed on Monday.

“Recent social media adverts have appealed for female recruits to join Borz Battalion, a part of Russian PMC Redut, to work as snipers and uncrewed aerial vehicle operators. Redut is likely directly sponsored by the Russian Main Directorate of Intelligence,” the British ministry of defense said in its war intelligence update.

The British intelligence report highlighted: “In March 2023, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said that 1,100 women were deployed in Ukraine, which would equate to only around 0.3 per cent of its force. As Redut’s advert points out, they currently serve in mostly medical support and food service roles.”

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However, the report added: “It remains unclear whether official Russian defense forces will seek to follow suit and open more combat roles to women.”

The UK intelligence also stated: “Women have rarely taken front line fighting roles within pro-Russian forces during the current conflict; however, there was a strong tradition of female snipers and other combat troops in Soviet forces during the Second World War.”

Women’s contributions in Russia’s military expanded during World War II when they served as combat medics, snipers, and even as partisans behind enemy lines. However, today, Russian gender disparities still exist and women continue to face challenges in achieving leadership positions and combat roles on par with their male counterparts.

Separately, Redut PMC it is one of several private military firms operating in Russia with a growing international presence. It became infamous for providing military support to various parties in involved in conflicts in the Middle East like Syria and Libya. It offers a range of services, including combat training, security consulting, and logistical support, primarily catering to governments and non-state actors.

Redut was established in 2008 by President Vladimir Putin-linked oligarch and former KGB agent Gennady Timchenko to safeguard his gas empire. It enjoys complete backing from the Russian defense ministry and has been active mainly in Syria, according to the think tank Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).

ASPI stated: “Redut played a major role in the Ukrainian invasion, suffering substantial losses. Leveraging [former Wagner chief Yevgeny] Prigozhin’s unsuccessful rebellion, the company has recruited former Wagner members. Redut is now the Russian military’s preferred private army, emblematic of the evolving complexity of its grey-zone operations. It highlights the growing ties between the oil and gas sector, conflict and Russian foreign policy. The company will use grey-zone tactics to extend the influence of Russia.”

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