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Ukrainian women playing expanded role as soldiers fighting Russian aggression

Ukrainian women soldiers
Ukrainian women on their way to war, March 2022. Source: Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine
[editorial] Since February 2022, the number and share of women in the Armed Forces of Ukraine increased. Even before the full-scale Russian war aggression, women formed 22% of the employees of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and more than 12% of its soldiers. In Ukrainian history, women often fought alongside men.[/editorial]

Ukrainian women have a long tradition of fighting for their people. Not only was that sanctioned by Cossack democracy long before other countries approved of the practice, but it is generally considered that the first woman to reach officer rank in a national army was Olena Stepaniv who commanded a unit during World War I.

Ukrainian military women
Olena Stepaniv. Source:

Even before Putin launched his expanded war in Ukraine, women formed 22% of the employees of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and more than 12% of its soldiers. At the same time, 9% of the National Guard and 8% of the Ukrainian territorial defense forces were female.

Since February, their numbers and share have only increased, and today, TRT reports, Ukrainian women in unprecedented numbers “are serving and fighting in practically all military formations of Ukraine and in both the Armed Forces and the National Guard.

Ukrainian female soldiers women military
Ukrainian women on their way to war, March 2022. Source: Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine

The Ukrainian government has actively promoted this development, although it is still a fact, the Russian-language Turkish portal says, that they face discrimination by senior officers who believe that women who become POWs will be subject to gender-specific torture and thus are unwilling to promote them or have them serve in the front lines.

Ukrainian women POWs stand proud with shaven heads after prisoner swap with Russia

As the war has continued, such attitudes are fading; and Ukrainian women are assuming ever more active combat roles. The consequences of that are likely to be enormous in the longer term, just as they have been in other countries where wartime conditions have allowed women to perform in roles many could not imagine earlier.

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