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Women in Arms: from the Russian Empire to Post-Soviet States - Research Notes (3)

Falsehood in the War in Ukraine: the Legend of Women Snipers

Amandine Regamey

Abstract

Since the beginning of the armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine, both sides have claimed that enemy women snipers have been arrested. These claims echo strangely what happened in Chechnya – where rumours about women snipers fighting against Russian troops loomed large and served as a justification for violence against women. This research note seeks to explore the different aspects of this legend in Eastern Ukraine, and reviews the differences and parallels that can be drawn with Chechnya.

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Index terms

Countries :

Ukraine, Chechnya
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  • 1 A. Regamey, “L’opinion publique russe et l’affaire Boudanov”, The Journal of Power Institutions In (...)

1In a previous PIPSS issue dedicated to military justice in Russia, I reflected on the Budanov case1: in March 2000 colonel Budanov kidnapped, raped and killed a young Chechen woman; he was arrested and finally sentenced to 10 years in 2003. During the entire trial, he denied the rape and claimed that the victim was a sniper, who had murdered several of his soldiers; he allegedly lost his temper during the interrogation and strangled her. The fact that his defence was built mainly on this argument, which was moreover favourably received by public opinion in Russia, induced me to explore further this mythical figure of the “woman sniper”.

  • 2 A. Regamey, “Les femmes snipers de Tchétchénie : interprétation d'une légende de guerre”, Questions (...)
  • 3 Following Baky’s work on Vietnam War legends, I use the term legends for stories that answer to the (...)
  • 4 See for example the news report on the Russian First Channel, “Dlia zhitelei Groznogo zakryt svobod (...)

2In subsequent articles2, I argued that the legend3 of women snipers was widespread during the first and second Chechen wars in Russia among the Russian forces. Women were accused of serving as snipers on the Chechen side: mercenaries from the Baltic States or Ukraine, but also Chechen girls and women. This legend circulated on the field, among Russian soldiers, was accredited by Russian officers, referred to by Russian politicians, and formed the plot of numerous novels, plays and films. It proved instrumental to analyse several aspects of the Russian war in Chechnya: representations of the enemy (Chechen civilians, alleged foreign mercenaries), new forms of warfare and soldiers combat experience, masculinity and sexual violence. Finally, this legend did not only pervade Russian cultural representations about the war in Chechnya: it had also effects on the field, leading to the arrest of civilian women under the suspicion that they were snipers4.

  • 5 A. Chapai, “Sluzhili dva ‘Aidarovtsa’. O chem priniato molchatʹ na voine”, The Insider, 22 Septembe (...)

3As I read regularly Ukrainian media during the years 2014-2015, I came across several references to “women snipers”. More troubling still, it appeared that women had been arrested on suspicion of being snipers. Thus, a former volunteer from Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Battalion “Aidar” mentioned during a September 2014 interview the rape of a woman prisoner and explained: “Afterwards, I asked who this woman was. ‘Oh, it's a separatist sniper.’ – ‘And how do we know? Did we take her with a weapon in hand?’ – ‘No, we found a balaclava among her things.’ And so this woman, just because she had a balaclava, was taken to prison, where she was raped5.

  • 6 International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), Ea (...)

4On the other side of the frontline, a woman humanitarian volunteer was kidnapped in June 2015 by the Donetsk People Republic’s Ministry of State Security (MGB), beaten and tortured even after MGB found that she was pregnant, and held nearly two months in captivity. She was accused of being a sniper belonging to the Extreme right pro-Ukranian group “Pravyi Sektor”6.

  • 7 A first version of this paper was presented at the 11th Annual Danyliw Research Seminar on Contempo (...)

5From Chechnya to Ukraine, the same legend seems to have the same effects, shedding suspicion on women and girls civilians in the conflict zone and serving as a justification for sexual violence. But how can we explain the recurrence of this legend in these two different - albeit post-soviet - contexts? I won’t try to assess here the frequency of occurrences or the dispersion of the “women snipers” legend in Ukraine– but to focus on some cases where these “women snipers” are mentioned. What are the similarities and differences with Chechnya and what they do reveal? The aim of this research note, based exclusively on information available on the Internet, is mainly to formulate some hypotheses and draw lines of inquiry for future research7.

Women snipers: a rumour on both sides

  • 8 A. Sidorchik, “’Pulia' doletalas'. Ukrainskaia lechitsa podozrevaetsia v ubiistve zhurnalistov”, Ar (...)

6While in Chechnya the rumour about women snipers seemed to be widespread mainly among Russian forces, since the beginning of the war in Eastern Ukraine in spring 2014, “both sides of the conflict report about the detention of women snipers”8. Indeed, in a range of cases, women captured on the battlefield or arrested for their alleged military activities were presented as snipers.

  • 9 Nadezhda Savchenko, who has held repeated hunger strikes since the beginning of her detention, was (...)
  • 10 NTV, “Zhenshchina-snaiper rasskazala o napadenii na rossiiskikh zhurnalistov”, http://www.ntv.ru/vi (...)
  • 11 “Poiavilos' video doprosa zaderzhannoi opolchentsami navodchitsy”, Vzgliad, 19 June 2014, http://vz (...)

7The well-known case of Nadezhda Savchenko is nearly a textbook case. In June 2014, N. Savchenko, a Ukrainian servicewoman, was captured during combat by separatist fighters, and transferred to Russia, to face trial for the death of two Russian journalists: she is accused of having given their positions by cell-phone and guided a mortar attack against a group of civilians9. But in the first hours of her detention, she was presented differently. The first releases on Russian television, just after her capture, mentioned “a well-trained sniper10, arrested in possession of a map “with the positions from where it would be convenient to conduct sniper fire11.

  • 12 This video shot by separatist fighters, was made public by her lawyer in March 2015 and is availabl (...)
  • 13 I. Azar "'Ia ee vzial i lichno peredal Plotnitskomu'. Boets LNR rasskazal 'Meduze', kak zaderzhival (...)
  • 14 A. Babchenko, “Pokhishchennaia. Konets sudebnogo predstavleniia i nachalo torgovli”, Spektr, 22 Mar (...)

8On a video of her arrest, the first question addressed to her by her captors is: “who are you? Of course, a sniper12. “Ilim”, the separatist fighter who claims to have captured her, is still convinced that she was a sniper, because her call-sign is “bullet” (pulia) (no usual call-sign for a helicopter aviator [her military specialty]) and because she had in her backpack a civilian red-dress13. Reflecting on her arrest, Russian journalist and former serviceman Arkadii Babchenko explains that in the mind of the Russian soldier, any woman he meets on the battlefield is a sniper. “If you are detained – that’s it, you’re a sniper. No other options. Even if you just were just going to the market for potatoes. The fact that you are detained is already evidence. And if you have in addition in your bag a red dress, lipstick and a mirror... Why should a woman have a dress, lipstick and a mirror? Well, of course - the dress to change into civilian clothes (…) and the mirror to give signals”14.

  • 15 “Vo vremia boia na Karachune tri zhenshchiny-snaipera sdalis' v plen silam ATO”, Obozrevatel’, 5 Ju (...)

9Babchenko speaks here of Russian soldiers, and one could have assumed that the rumor is imported from Chechnya by Russian soldiers and officers combatting in Eastern Ukraine – if the same story had not been found on the other side of the frontline. Indeed, after Ukrainian forces arrested three women among separatist forces near Slaviansk in July 2014, they also claimed that “three female snipers surrendered”15.

  • 16 “Na Donbasse spetsnazovtsy zaderzhali 19-letniuiu snaipershu”, UNIAN Information Agency, 12 January (...)
  • 17 “Na Donbasі spetspriznachentsy zatrymali 19-rіchnu snaiperku”, Ukrainska Pravda, 12 January 2015, h (...)
  • 18 “Ukraine’s Security Service captured a 19 year old terrorist sniper”, Euromaidan Press, 15 January (...)
  • 19 https://www.facebook.com/markian.lubkivskyi?fref=ts (Last accessed 16/03/2016).

10In January 2015 the Ukrainian Information Agency UNIAN16, Ukrainska Pravda17 and Euromaidan Press18 informed that in Donbass, special operations unit had arrested a 19-year-old sniper, who operated under the nickname “Ekstazi” and had killed at least ten Ukrainian soldiers. To support their accusations, those three media outlet referred to the girls’ “own admission” and to the “avowal” of another girl “from the same subunit and a former partner”. But the evidence they gave were as flimsy and incoherent as the “proofs” in the Savchenko case: excerpts from discussions on social media (especially http://sprashivai.ru, an internet website dedicated to anonymous contacts and discussions online) and photographs of the young girl posing with weapons from her personal page on Vkontakte. This obvious forgery maybe came from, or at least was supported, by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU): Markian Lubkivskii, advisor to the Head of Security Service of Ukraine used his Facebook19 account to officially endorse the information and to give some details on the case.

  • 20 A. Ponsonby, Falsehood in War-time: Propaganda Lies of the First World War, 1928, available on http (...)
  • 21 M. Bloch, Réflexions d’un historien sur les fausses nouvelles de la guerre (1921), Paris, Allia, 19 (...)

11While these cases show how falsehood is used as a weapon in wartime to gain the support of public opinion20, and how the media, and especially now social media, play a crucial role, legends still cannot be defined only as a synonym to propaganda. Relying on his experience at the front during World War I, Marc Bloch suggested that rumours were mainly born among soldiers and that they circulated via word of mouth between the front and the rear21. Rumours and legends are indeed an expression of soldiers’ particular situation on the field. The fear of the sniper who “shoots from nowhere” is almost universal in contemporary battlefields, and snipers symbolize a death which can strike at any time. Simultaneously, in Ukraine, soldiers are frequently under heavy artillery fire, and there is a widespread suspicion against “spotters” (navodchiki), civilians who are accused of helping the enemy by correcting their artillery fire.

  • 22 I. Azar, op. cit.
  • 23 “Shturmom namagalysia vziaty boioviki s'ogodnі selishche Shirokine”, TSN News, 9 March 2015, http:/ (...)

12This fear led to the creation of a new mythic figure, the “sniper-spotter”. N. Savchenko was thus presented on the Russian NTV channel as a “woman-sniper who adjusted fire during combat”, and “Ilim” who captured her claimed that she corrected fire with the help of her rifle binocular22. Once again, such rumours can be heard on both sides. Ukrainian soldiers from the Donbass Battalion fighting in Eastern Ukraine also mixed the two notions in a March 2015 interview where they claimed that the snipers were local girls: “These girls, they look pacific but, in reality, they select a point, and half of them adjusts fire, and after they work with sniper complex against our soldiers23.

The “White Tights” are back

13The mythic “White Tights”, cruel and greedy snipers, featured in numerous newspaper articles, pulp fictions and films on the Chechen wars (i.e. “The Purgatory” by Alexandre Nevzorov). They were presented as the spiritual heirs and grand-daughters of the Baltic “Forest brothers” who fought against Soviet soldiers during WWII. Their name recalls the white camouflage suits worn by Finnish soldiers who moved on skis, hid in the forests, and inflicted heavy losses to Soviet soldiers during the 1939-1940 Winter War. This association between ski and rifle certainly explains why the White Tights were said in Chechnya to be former biathlon champion – and why the legend reappears about Ukrainian biathlonist Olena Pidrushnaia.

14On the 1st of June 2014, various social networks featured the photograph of a young woman in military fatigues carrying a rifle. She was said to be a sniper for the Ukrainian army, based near Slaviansk, and the photograph went with captions inciting murder and vengeance, such as “Remember this face. This beast has no right to live”. The woman in the photograph was soon “identified” as Olena Pidhrushna, who had won a gold medal in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, and served at that time as Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports in the Ukrainian government.

  • 24 Dolgov declaration on the “Russia” TV Channel on 1 June 2014 is available on https://www.youtube.co (...)
  • 25 “Ukrainskuiu olimpiiskuiu chempionku v Rossii schitaiut snaiperom ATO”, Sport Obozrevatel’, 1 June (...)

15This “breaking news” was then shared on social media, and the rumour was fuelled by public accusations on Russian television made by Konstantin Dolgov, one of the leaders of the “Novorossia popular front”. He accused her of “working as a sniper in Slaviansk” and stressed (as if to support his claim), that her husband was “a member of an ultranationalist fascist party”24. Pidrushna herself argued that at the time of the photography she was in Kyiv, rejected these accusations as “Russian propaganda”, and suggested that “perhaps these 'journalists' decided to recall this old story with the Baltic biathletes who allegedly fought in Chechnya”25.

  • 26 T. Zhurzhenko, “Russia’s Never-Ending War against ‘Fascism’. Memory Politics in the Russian-Ukraini (...)
  • 27 See for exemple “Opolchenets Variag: V Avdeevke propisalis' negry”, DNR 24, 25 December 2015, http: (...)

16While the memory of the Second World War is constantly mobilized in the conflict in Eastern Ukraine26, the reference to Baltic snipers comes in handy for Russian propaganda: it allows the drawing of an equivalence between Ukrainians, Balts and Nazis. It permits also a reference to foreign mercenaries – the Baltic States being seen as outposts of the US. “Baltic mercenaries” are indeed usually mentioned together with American mercenaries and especially Afro-Americans27. A press conference by the head of the Luhansk People Republic Valery Bolotov on the 17th of June 2014 shows how this issue of women snipers can be bloated to feed the narrative.

  • 28 “Valerii Bolotov: Opolchentsy vziali v plen zhenshchinu-snaipera”, Life News, 17 June 2014 http://l (...)

17The Lifenews Channel broadcasted extracts of this press conference under the headline “Valery Bolotov: The militias captured a woman sniper”, selecting the capture of a woman sniper as the main information from the press conference as a whole. Moreover, they presented the woman as a Lithuanian, while Bolotov in the press conference insisted that he was not sure about it : “I did not enquire about their nationality, but I think that one of them is a Lithuanian, he said. He even confessed that he had “set the task to capture, to prove that there are foreigners (…) but for the moment, there is still nothing.” And finally, when a journalist insisted in knowing more about “this citizen... from Lithuania, yes?”, he backed up and said that not only did he lack information, but that in fact he was talking about another woman28.

18However, beyond manipulations by media, we see that the mythical figure of the Baltic sniper is sufficiently pervasive and well-known to prompt Bolotov to “think that one of them is a Lithuanian. Thus, the reactivation of the White Tights legend certainly plays a role in the resurgence of rumours about women snipers, even if other factors need to be explored.

Women on the battlefield: increased visibility and confusion

  • 29 See for exemple “Zhіnki-vіis'kovі u zonі ATO voiuiut' na rіvnі z cholovіkami”, TSN News, 9 November (...)

19One of the reasons may be the increased visibility of women in the armed forces. Since the beginning of the conflict, both sides have highlighted the presence of women in armed groups. Women volunteers are put forward because they allow the representation of a nation united against the aggression. Different media reports stress their dedication, their skill, presenting them as proficient military specialists29. As the skills requested from sharpshooter are not linked with physical strength, but with those characteristics often attributed to women such as patience, precision, and cunning, nothing contradicts the idea that they could be snipers.

  • 30 Interviewee N°13 in T. Martseniuk, Nevydymyi batal’ion, op. cit. p 45.
  • 31 “Program ‘Women in the ATO’” by the 39th Woman Defense Squad (sotnia) of the Maidan http://39s.com. (...)

20On the contrary, “sniper” is usually precisely the military function used to illustrate the fact that women can serve in combat positions : “a woman who goes voluntarily to war already makes a heroic deed, no matter whether she goes as a cook or as a sniper30, “today, there are about 300 women among the Armed Forces and volunteer battalions. They serve as snipers, scouts, gunners; they work as doctors, kitchen and office staff”31.

21This focus on snipers can certainly be explained by historical factors: there were women snipers in the Soviet Union during World War II. A special school was created and though it trained only two thousand women, Soviet propaganda dwelled on the deeds of heroic snipers such as Rosa Shanina, Natalia Kovshova or Liudmila Pavlichenko. Pavlichenko, who is credited with 309 kills - the highest score for a woman sniper - is, without doubt, a major figure among DNR/LNR fighters. Her photograph circulates on pro-separatist social media, but she is more generally known in Ukraine, especially since the film “Nezlamna” based on her biography was released in March 2015.

  • 32 “Devushka-snaiper iz batal'ona 'Donbass': Poniala, chto ia na voine, kogda pogib nash boets”, TSN N (...)
  • 33 In the 1930’s, the two notions may have been used indifferently: sharpshooters who were formed in S (...)

22On the other hand, there seems to be a growing confusion, at least in media discourse, between “shooter” and “sniper”. For example, the Ukrainian Channel TSN News reported about a “girl-sniper from the Donbass battalion”, a 23 year old “hairdresser-visagist turned sniper”32, while we learn from this same TSN report that before the war she never touched a weapon – which makes it very unlikely that she became a sniper in a few month. A sniper is a highly specialized professional, who masters not only sharpshooting but also camouflage skills, and who has a specific function on the battlefield. Being a sniper requires a lengthy military formation to which women in Ukraine still do not have access. The word sniper seems to be increasingly used as a synonym for the Russian “strelok” (Ukrainian – strilok), which is formed on the same root as streliat’ (striliaty), shoot, but translates simply as “rifleman” or “infantry soldier”33.

  • 34 See D. Marple’s comment on I. Katchanovski’s paper, “The ‘Snipers’ Massacre’ on the Maidan in Ukrai (...)

23In fact, this confusion about the use of the term “sniper” can be traced down to the Maidan revolution in Kyiv, and to the discussions about the responsibility for the death of more than a hundred protesters allegedly killed by snipers. On the one hand, the term sniper is sometimes used in its narrow military sense: rumours about snipers on the roof, shooting from a concealed position, inflicting on purpose specific injuries (neck, head, etc.). On the other hand, the debate about the Maidan “sniper massacre” is in fact about “who had access to weapons” and “who shot at protesters”, and not especially about the expertise or the proficiency of these snipers34. Thus, the blurring of the word “sniper” contributes to accredit the idea that some women are indeed snipers.

Threatened masculinity and eroticization of the woman with a gun

  • 35 S. Ostrovsky, “A Rebel Beauty Pageant: Russian Roulette”, Vice News, Dispatch 98, 9 March 2015, htt (...)

24In the context of the war in Ukraine, the eroticization of the figure of the woman with a gun is particularly striking. Photographs of sexy women armed with a gun, sometimes openly erotic, sometimes only glamourous, abound on the Internet and are used by all parties to the conflict to represent “their” women. In Western Ukraine and Kyiv, one of the best known is the “Banderivka” in a tight T-shirt, with an opulent bosom, a Ukrainian wreath and a Kalashnikov. In the same spirit, on the 8th of March 2015, a beauty contest was organized in Donetsk, where all contestants were fighters themselves. Women paraded in evening dress but were also pictured in alluring poses and holding guns, ready to shoot. One of the contestants in this pageant explained to journalist Simon Ostrovsky that “our guys say that when we are with them, they feel more like men” 35.

  • 36 “Pochalasia mobіlіzatsіia: ‘Nam potrіbnі spravzhnі muzhiki!’", Ukr Media, 20 January 2015, https:// (...)

25Nevertheless, if men may “feel like men” with women at their side, they can also feel threatened in their masculinities by women when they are on the other side. Indeed, masculinity is both asserted and endangered during wars. On the one hand, men are encouraged to volunteer to show that “they are real men36, and taking arms may be a crucial way to assert masculinity in economically depressed regions, where men have difficulties at keeping their role of “breadwinner” – which is the case of a number of Ukrainian regions. On the other hand, soldiers’ masculinities are constantly at risk on the battlefield: fear not to behave bravely enough, to be injured, to be abandoned or cheated on by their wives, etc. This focus on masculinity may explain why, when soldiers are under sniper fire, the claim that these snipers are women.

  • 37 “Opolchenets: Zhenshchiny-snaipery u aeroporta v Donetske streliali nashim v pakh”, Life News, 31 M (...)
  • 38 “Shturmom namagalysia….” Op. cit.

26Talking to Life News about the fight around Donetsk Airport, an anonymous fighter from the separatist Vostok brigade said that they had been under the fire of some mercenaries snipers and that “the snipers were chicks37. In a TSN newsreel on the 9th of March 2015, a Ukrainian journalist reporting about the everyday life of the “Donbass” Battalion explained that “the men admit, that here on the frontline they are less afraid of tanks or heavy artillery than of the enemy snipers. For this function, on the terrorist side, is carried out by girls” 38.

27This leads us to a final aspect of the legend – the image of a dangerous woman. In Chechnya, the White Tights were said to take specific pleasure in shooting soldiers in their reproductive organs – and this legend also reached Ukraine. Indeed, the “Vostok” fighter quoted above also claimed that “one of our fighters, he’s a 300th [injured], he was shot in the inner part of the thigh, she aimed at his groin”.

  • 39 T. Barden, J. Provo, “Legends of the American Soldiers in the Vietnam War”, Fabula, Vol. 36, # 3-4, (...)
  • 40 See for exemple “Boeviki kastrirovali chast' plennykh ukraintsev”, Vlasti.net, 31 December 2014, ht (...)

28Legends about women snipers accommodate the traditional theme of the dangerous woman who deprives the man of his virility. This universal theme, which can be traced back to the traditional vagina dentata folktales, with their stories of castration, can also be found in the Vietnam War stories about Vietnamese prostitutes who put Coke bottles in their vagina to emasculate American GIs39. Finally, the theme of castration points not only to threatened masculinities but also to the atrocities of the enemy – a rumour circulated in December 2014 in Ukrainian social media about Ukrainian soldiers who had allegedly been castrated during their captivity in DNR / LNR40.

Conclusion: a legend of unity and division

  • 41 See for exemple the fear of the "Red nurse among German Freikorps in K. Theweleit, Male Fantasies, (...)
  • 42 See for example V. Dzutsati, Was Russian Commander in Eastern Ukraine Involved in Crimes Against C (...)

29The legend of women snipers in Ukraine can be explained by combining different levels of explanation. Parallels can be made with other contexts41, and show that the legend has a universal dimension, as it allows the expression of threatened masculinities and of soldiers’ fears on a battlefield. But the legend also has a proper post-soviet aspect: Soviet propaganda about women snipers and their heroic deeds during World War II made the woman sniper a familiar and credible figure. The fact that this legend can be found on both sides of the front suggests that the conflicting parties share a common soviet heritage. The reappearance of the mythical “White Tights” can be explained by the circulation of fighters from Chechnya to Ukraine42, or by a common past shared by security services and armed forces. It also hints at the existence of a common cultural space, since the White Tights were a well-known figure in Russian war films of the 2000s. But at the same time, the figure of the cruel woman sniper sheds suspicion on civilian women “on the other side” and suggests that the other party resorts to cruel mercenaries, thus contributing to the division of what was once united.

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Notes

1 A. Regamey, “L’opinion publique russe et l’affaire Boudanov”, The Journal of Power Institutions In Post-Soviet Societies, # 8, 2008, http://www.pipss.org/document1493.html.

2 A. Regamey, “Les femmes snipers de Tchétchénie : interprétation d'une légende de guerre”, Questions de Recherche du CERI, March 2011, http://www.sciencespo.fr/ceri/sites/sciencespo.fr.ceri/files/qdr35.pdf (Last accessed 27/03/2016) ; A. Regamey, “The Weight of Imagination: rapes and the legend of women snipers in Chechnya” in R. Branche and F. Virgili (Eds), Rape in Wartime, Palgrave MacMillan, 2012.

3 Following Baky’s work on Vietnam War legends, I use the term legends for stories that answer to the following requisites: “the tale must: sound plausible; it must have at least part of its origins in oral transmission; it must exist in more than two variations; it must accommodate traditional themes; and it must lack any systematic means of authentication” (J. Baky, “White Cong and Black Clap: The Ambient Truth of Vietnam War Legendry”, Viet Nam Generation: A Journal of Recent History and Contemporary Issue, vol. 5, # 1-4, 1994).

4 See for example the news report on the Russian First Channel, “Dlia zhitelei Groznogo zakryt svobodnyi prokhod v gorod. Na vykhode iz goroda zaderzhana zhenshchina-snaiper”, 1TV news, 14 February 2000, http://www.1tv.ru/news/other/136934 (Last accessed 17/03/2016).

5 A. Chapai, “Sluzhili dva ‘Aidarovtsa’. O chem priniato molchatʹ na voine”, The Insider, 22 September 2014, http://www.theinsider.ua/politics/54a9af9fa9f76/ (Last accessed 16/10/2015).

6 International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and Ukrainian Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), Eastern Ukraine. Civilians caught in the crossfire, October 2015, p 27, https://www.fidh.org/IMG/pdf/eastern_ukraine-ld.pdf (Last accessed 12/02/2016).

7 A first version of this paper was presented at the 11th Annual Danyliw Research Seminar on Contemporary Ukraine at the Chair of Ukrainian Studies, University of Ottawa, on 22-24 October 2015 (http://www.danyliwseminar.com) My warm thanks to the organizers and all participants who helped me to improve this text.

8 A. Sidorchik, “’Pulia' doletalas'. Ukrainskaia lechitsa podozrevaetsia v ubiistve zhurnalistov”, Argumenty I Fakty, 9 July 2014, http://www.aif.ru/euromaidan/prediction/pulya_doletalas_ukrainskaya_letchica_podozrevaetsya_v_ubiystve_zhurnalistov (Last accessed 16/03/2016).

9 Nadezhda Savchenko, who has held repeated hunger strikes since the beginning of her detention, was sentenced in March 2016 to 22 years of detention. Though she has received a wide support in Ukraine and on the international level, she is still imprisoned in Russia at the time of writing of this research note.

10 NTV, “Zhenshchina-snaiper rasskazala o napadenii na rossiiskikh zhurnalistov”, http://www.ntv.ru/video/870600/ (Last accessed 16/03/2016).

11 “Poiavilos' video doprosa zaderzhannoi opolchentsami navodchitsy”, Vzgliad, 19 June 2014, http://vz.ru/news/2014/6/19/691910.html (Last accessed 16/03/2016).

12 This video shot by separatist fighters, was made public by her lawyer in March 2015 and is available on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oN8-qAn-D8Q (Last accessed 12/03/2016).

13 I. Azar "'Ia ee vzial i lichno peredal Plotnitskomu'. Boets LNR rasskazal 'Meduze', kak zaderzhivali Nadezhdu Savchenko", Meduza, 21 March 2016, https://meduza.io/feature/2016/03/21/ya-ee-vzyal-i-lichno-peredal-plotnitskomu (Last accessed 27/03/2016).

14 A. Babchenko, “Pokhishchennaia. Konets sudebnogo predstavleniia i nachalo torgovli”, Spektr, 22 March 2016, http://spektr.press/pohischennaya-konec-sudebnogo-predstavleniya-i-nachalo-torgovli/ (Last accessed 27/03/2016).

15 “Vo vremia boia na Karachune tri zhenshchiny-snaipera sdalis' v plen silam ATO”, Obozrevatel’, 5 July 2014, http://obozrevatel.com/politics/62140-vo-vremya-boya-na-karachune-tri-zhenschinyi-snajpera-sdalis-v-plen-silam-ato.htm (Last accessed 16/03/2016).

16 “Na Donbasse spetsnazovtsy zaderzhali 19-letniuiu snaipershu”, UNIAN Information Agency, 12 January 2015, http://www.unian.net/society/1030919-na-donbasse-spetsnazovtsyi-zaderjali-19-letnyuyu-snaypershu-foto.html (Last accessed 16/03/2016).

17 “Na Donbasі spetspriznachentsy zatrymali 19-rіchnu snaiperku”, Ukrainska Pravda, 12 January 2015, http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2015/01/12/7054778/ (Last accessed 16/03/2016).

18 “Ukraine’s Security Service captured a 19 year old terrorist sniper”, Euromaidan Press, 15 January 2015, http://euromaidanpress.com/2015/01/15/ukraines-security-service-captured-a-19-year-old-terrorist-sniper/ (Last accessed 16/03/2016).

19 https://www.facebook.com/markian.lubkivskyi?fref=ts (Last accessed 16/03/2016).

20 A. Ponsonby, Falsehood in War-time: Propaganda Lies of the First World War, 1928, available on http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks10/1000011.txt. (Last accessed 16/03/2016).

21 M. Bloch, Réflexions d’un historien sur les fausses nouvelles de la guerre (1921), Paris, Allia, 1999.

22 I. Azar, op. cit.

23 “Shturmom namagalysia vziaty boioviki s'ogodnі selishche Shirokine”, TSN News, 9 March 2015, http://tsn.ua/video/video-novini/shturmom-namagalisya-vzyati-boyoviki-sogodni-selische-shirokine.html (Last accessed 16/03/2016).

24 Dolgov declaration on the “Russia” TV Channel on 1 June 2014 is available on https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zIPlE6thPuE (Last accessed 25/03/2016).

25 “Ukrainskuiu olimpiiskuiu chempionku v Rossii schitaiut snaiperom ATO”, Sport Obozrevatel’, 1 June 2014, http://sport.obozrevatel.com/sport/71963-ukrainskuyu-olimpijskuyu-chempionku-v-rossii-schitayut-snajperom-ato.htm (Last accessed 25/03/2016).

26 T. Zhurzhenko, “Russia’s Never-Ending War against ‘Fascism’. Memory Politics in the Russian-Ukrainian Conflict”, Institute for Human Sciences, 8 May 2015, http://www.iwm.at/uncategorized/russias-never-ending-war-fascism-memory-politics-russian-ukrainian-conflict/ (Last accessed 25/03/2016).

27 See for exemple “Opolchenets Variag: V Avdeevke propisalis' negry”, DNR 24, 25 December 2015, http://dnr24.su/dnr/11473-opolchenec-varyag-v-avdeevke-propisalis-negry-ili-kto-gotovit-vsu-pered-nastupleniem.html (Last accessed 25/03/2016).

28 “Valerii Bolotov: Opolchentsy vziali v plen zhenshchinu-snaipera”, Life News, 17 June 2014 http://lifenews.ru/news/135149 (Last accessed 25/03/2016).

29 See for exemple “Zhіnki-vіis'kovі u zonі ATO voiuiut' na rіvnі z cholovіkami”, TSN News, 9 November 2014, http://tsn.ua/video/video-novini/zhinki-viyskovi-u-zoni-ato-voyuyut-na-rivni-z-cholovikami.html (Last accessed 18/02/2016) or T. Martseniuk, Nevydymyi batal’ion : uchast’ zhinok u viiskovykh diiakh v ATO, 2015, page 58-70, available on http://uwf.kiev.ua/publications (Last accessed 27/03/2016).

30 Interviewee N°13 in T. Martseniuk, Nevydymyi batal’ion, op. cit. p 45.

31 “Program ‘Women in the ATO’” by the 39th Woman Defense Squad (sotnia) of the Maidan http://39s.com.ua/ua/news/startu_programa_pdtrimki_zhnki_v_ato/ (Last accessed 27/03/2016).

32 “Devushka-snaiper iz batal'ona 'Donbass': Poniala, chto ia na voine, kogda pogib nash boets”, TSN News, 21 September 2014, http://ru.tsn.ua/ukrayina/devushka-snayper-iz-batalona-donbass-ponyala-chto-ya-na-voyne-kogda-pogib-nash-boec-387745.html (Last accessed 27/03/2016).

33 In the 1930’s, the two notions may have been used indifferently: sharpshooters who were formed in Soviet para-military formations (Osoaviakhim) were rewarded with “Voroshilovski strelok” medal.

34 See D. Marple’s comment on I. Katchanovski’s paper, “The ‘Snipers’ Massacre’ on the Maidan in Ukraine”, 23 October 2014, http://ukraineanalysis.wordpress.com/2014/10/23/the-snipers-massacre-in-kyiv/ (Last accessed 23/03/2016).

35 S. Ostrovsky, “A Rebel Beauty Pageant: Russian Roulette”, Vice News, Dispatch 98, 9 March 2015, https://news.vice.com/video/russian-roulette-dispatch-98 (Last accessed 23/03/2016).

36 “Pochalasia mobіlіzatsіia: ‘Nam potrіbnі spravzhnі muzhiki!’", Ukr Media, 20 January 2015, https://ukr.media/ukrain/222771/ (Last accessed 23/03/2016).

37 “Opolchenets: Zhenshchiny-snaipery u aeroporta v Donetske streliali nashim v pakh”, Life News, 31 May 2014, http://lifenews.ru/news/134208 (Last accessed 23/03/2016)

38 “Shturmom namagalysia….” Op. cit.

39 T. Barden, J. Provo, “Legends of the American Soldiers in the Vietnam War”, Fabula, Vol. 36, # 3-4, 1995, pp. 217-229.

40 See for exemple “Boeviki kastrirovali chast' plennykh ukraintsev”, Vlasti.net, 31 December 2014, http://vlasti.net/news/208881 (Last accessed 23/03/2016). Thanks to Rosaria Puglisi who brought this case to my attention.

41 See for exemple the fear of the "Red nurse among German Freikorps in K. Theweleit, Male Fantasies, Volume 1, Women floods bodies history, University of Minnesota Press, 1987.

42 See for example V. Dzutsati, Was Russian Commander in Eastern Ukraine Involved in Crimes Against Civilians in Chechnya?”, Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 11, # 99, 28 May 2014.

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References

Electronic reference

Amandine Regamey, « Falsehood in the War in Ukraine: the Legend of Women Snipers  », The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [Online], Issue 17 | 2016, Online since 05 April 2016, connection on 29 April 2017. URL : http://pipss.revues.org/4222

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About the author

Amandine Regamey

CERCEC / Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne

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This text is under a Creative Commons license : Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic

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