A tale of two deadly female snipers

Banfield

(NewsNation) ⁠— This is a tale of two incredibly deadly female snipers, who have very different fates.

Ukraine’s sniper, also known as “Charcoal,” is still out there, presumably racking up more Russian kills.

Her counterpart Irina Starikova, also known as “Bagira,” was reportedly captured last month by Ukrainian soldiers.

There’s a long history of Ukrainian and Russian female snipers, according to Dr. Laurie Stoff, a historian who specializes in Russian, East European and gender studies.

“Women participated in warfare sporadically throughout history, mostly disguised as men. But in … the First World War, Russia (recruited) the very first all-female combat unit in 1917 with about 5,000 women,” Stoff said during an inteview Tuesday night with NewsNation’s Ashleigh Banfield. “In WWII, in the Soviet armed forces, there were almost 1 million (women) who served, over 350,000 of them in combat positions.”

So, while female snipers might seem unusual to many Americans, these two women are actually carrying on a tradition that dates back many decades.


What we know about “Charcoal”

Her call sign is “Charcoal,” but her true identity is a closely guarded secret. She’s become a national hero in Ukraine for amassing a long list of kills.

According to the Ukrainian armed forces, she joined the Ukrainian Marines in 2017 and spent years fighting pro-Russian separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk.

Courtesy: Ukrainian armed forces on Facebook

She retired from the military in January 2021 but re-enlisted just before Russian invasion Now serving on the front lines with the 35th Infantry Brigade.

The sniper’s photos were shared on the Ukrainian armed forces Facebook page.

“Charcoal” is being compared to World War II sniper legend Pavlichenko.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko is a Ukrainian who served in the Soviet armed forced during World War II, fighting Nazis.

She had 309 confirmed kills.

There’s even a song about Pavlichenko called Miss Pavlichenko by American folk singer Woody Guthrie.

Lyudmila Pavlichenko, a famous 26-year-old Russian guerrilla sniper who killed 309 Germans, for which she was made a senior lieutenant and given the Order of Lenin. A former historian, she participated in the defense of Odessa and of Sevastopol where she remained until the last. She was wounded four times. (Photo by: Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

What we know about Irina Starikova 

Russia also had its own elite female sniper fighting for them named Irina Starikova .

Her capture was announced by Ukrainian armed forces who also tweeted that she “shot our prisoners in 2014.”

Irina’s code name is “Bagira,” taken from the black panther character in Rudyard Kipling’s “The Jungle Book.”

The U.S. Sun reported that she was left to die by fellow Russian forces before being captured.

Irina Sarikova | Courtesy: @ArmedForcesUkr Twitter

According to a researcher at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London, she’s responsible for at least 40 kills, including civilians.

It’s possible that she and “Charcoal” were serving in the same part of Ukraine at the same time.

Starikova is reportedly married to another sniper, Alexander Ogrenich, whose nickname is “the dragon.”

He claims to have killed 100 people, and the two of them are the parents of two children.  

“Interestingly, enough, Starikova is not Russian. She is a Serbian national.” Stoff explained that she and her husband went to fight for Russia.

“It seems to me that they’re fighting more as mercenaries, and Russia is relying very heavily on mercenary troops. I don’t know if the Russians will consider her to be a valuable player (or) will do much to try to get her released.”

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