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Russian female medics being used as 'field wives,' sex slaves by their commanders in Ukraine war

Russian female combat medics who have been ordered into Ukraine as part of its ongoing invasion are being pressured into becoming “field wives,” or sex slaves for combat soldiers, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE)

Stock image of pretty young girl in a Soviet military uniform
Stock image of pretty young girl in a Soviet military uniform | Shutterstock

March 29, 2023 8:29am

Updated: March 29, 2023 8:29am

Russian female medics who have been ordered into Ukraine as part of its ongoing invasion are being pressured into becoming “field wives,” or sex slaves for combat soldiers, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE).

RFE, a grantee news agency that is overseen by the U.S. Agency for Global Media, the same parent organization that operates Voice of America, published an interview Tuesday with a female combat medic who made claims that Russian soldiers force them into sexual slavery, and those who resist are punished.

The RFE source, who used the cover identity of Margarita, told the U.S. news network she was a single mother living in the city of Belgorod with her own special needs children. She had retired from the Russian Army in 2017 after 11 years of service.

But after the Kremlin began rallying Mother Russia, she answered the call of duty and volunteered to serve as a medic in Ukraine.

Instead of finding glory, she now spends much of her time enduring nightmares and panic attacks. She says she has spent considerable time trying to treat her PTSD with antidepressants.

“Even when I’m not alone and I’m doing something, I still see before my eyes all that horror,”  told RFE.

Margarita says she started training in Nizhniy Novgorod where she was immediately hand-picked by a tank platoon commander with the rank of colonel who selected her as his “field wife.”

Field wives are not a real position in the military, but rather a role female servicemembers are subjugated into by Russian officers who coerce them into sexual favors and domesticated labor such as cooking and cleaning.

When Margarita rejected the colonel and said she just wanted to serve her country, he not only continued sexually harassing her, he punished her by making her sleep outside in the forest while others slept in houses and tents.

“For a month I simply slept outside,” Margarita recalled.  “While others spent nights in tents and houses, I slept on the ground, next to a road, in a small forest.”

The female Russian combat medic said the colonel’s aim was to “break” her spirit to the point she would finally have sexual relations with the commander, but as she continued to refuse he finally ordered her to the front line, which could have easily become a death sentence.

Margarita said she is not the only female servicemember she knows who was targeted for sexual services. She said seven other female servicemembers she knows between the ages of 23 and 38 were also pressured into sexual relationships with one or more officers.

Some of them are even married, and on one occasion she says one field wife was shot by an officer who was intoxicated and jealous.

“When we went there, no one, of course, knew what was going on. And when we understood, there was no turning back,” she said. They made it seem as if Ukrainians did it,” Margarita said of the shooting, which left the victim permanently disabled.”

She said the officer then shot himself in the hand to fabricate a story he had fought to protect her. In reality, Margarita said the officer treated the other female servicemember with cruelty by regularly beating her with the butt of his rifle.

Others witnessed this misconduct, but did nothing, she told RFE.

The woman, whose name was Svetlana was also married. Fearing she may become pregnant, she finally called her husband in Russia and told him she was being sexually coerced by a military officer.

In a separate instance, another female servicemember named Alina was “given” to another Russian officer in September.

“They simply put her before a fact — you’ll be with this one, he likes you,” Margarita recalled someone saying. Eventually, Alina was “passed around” by several different officers, she said.

According to Margarita, “the girl went along with it. And mostly the girls have made peace with it. They decided that it’s better to live in paradise in this war — fed and with cigarettes.”

Deserters who try to escape back home face the terrifying possibility they could be fired upon by Russian troops.

Margarita said that while female officers faced sexual abuse, male conscripts who resisted serving on the front lines were also punished by being locked in damp, rat filled basements without clothing.

If that method failed, she said commanders also had a more “original” way to get their subordinates to comply with orders.

They also psychologically tormented conscripts by making them dig their own graves and lie in it to simulate the sense they were facing their own death.

“They would force [conscripts] to dig their own graves. They would dig a hole and then be forced to lie in it,” she said. “And other guys, at gunpoint, would sprinkle dirt all over them. Even their heads would not be sticking out.

“Then the platoon leader or company commander would walk off and shoot at those holes one by one.”

According to Margarita, some conscripts survived, and others did not.

She said while she personally treated some of the servicemembers who were severely beaten by other Russian soldiers, only those facing serious, life threatening injuries were allowed to be hospitalized.

To avoid combat, she said many of the conscripts are shooting themselves in their own legs.

“When they would remove their combat boots, I was just horrified, have never since anything like this. Sheer blackness with flesh, with dried blood; even the toes were no longer distinguishable,” she said. “The only thing left to do was to amputate.”

Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has lost an estimated 200,000 troops to either death or serious injury, according to U.S. sources who spoke to the New York Times.  

Forbes has reported that number may be an overestimation, but also indicated that Moscow has lost a total of 1,782 Russian tanks thus far.

The Forbes report also indicated that Russia suffered heavy losses in the beginning of the war largely due to a lack of training.

Around April, the Russian casualties decreased and leveled off (aside from Week 12) corresponding to the Russians ending their initial assault and focusing on the Donbas region,” Forbes wrote.

“Around Week 25, both sides began to see increased losses, as the Ukrainians launched their counter-offensive. As part of the counter-offensive, neither side should have a definitive tactical advantage, which would result in both sides having similar losses.

“However, the Russians sustained more losses likely due to the fielding of under-trained soldiers. Regardless, in Russian and Ukrainian losses are much more comparable than earlier in the war.