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22 Nov, 2023 15:34

Women begin working in Ukrainian mines – Reuters

Thousands of male miners have been sent to the frontlines, leaving only females to fill their positions, the news agency has said
Women begin working in Ukrainian mines – Reuters

With male workers drafted and sent to the frontlines, hundreds of women have been put to work in Ukrainian coal mines, Reuters reported on Wednesday. Meanwhile, some women have already been conscripted by the military.

Prior to the conflict with Russia, Ukrainian energy firm DTEK employed roughly 20,000 mine workers, all of whom were male. With 3,000 of this number drafted and sent to the front, the firm told Reuters that it has hired around 400 women to make up the shortfall.

Soviet-era legislation barred women from dangerous employment like mining, although this long-standing labor law was repealed by President Vladimir Zelensky’s government shortly after hostilities began in 2022. In one mine near the city of Pavlograd, female workers told Reuters that they did everything their male counterparts used to, save for some heavy lifting.

“Our boys were taken to the front, and now we need to support them: There is no one else to work in the mine now,” a 22-year-old miner told the news agency.

Between the Pavlograd mine and a similar operation nearby, 43 of the 1,000 men who left to fight have been killed, Reuters reported.

The conflict in Ukraine has wreaked havoc on the country’s demographics. The country’s population stood at around 62 million before February 2022, and according to UN figures, more than 6.3 million people– mostly women and children – have since fled the country. With adult men forbidden from leaving, hundreds of thousands have been conscripted and an unknown number have either fled the country or are evading conscription within Ukraine, according to recent reports. 

It is unclear how many Ukrainian soldiers have been killed, as Kiev does not publish casualty figures. More than 103,000 Ukrainian troops died between the first week of June and the third week of November, according to the most recent figures released by the Russian Defense Ministry. Last December, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the Ukrainian military had suffered 100,000 fatalities in the first nine months of the conflict. It is unclear how many more died in the six months in between these tallies, but the total death toll on the Ukrainian side likely stands far above 200,000 – nearly four times the number of men the US lost in Vietnam.

Amid this high attrition rate, Kiev has turned to older and less fit men to bolster its ranks. According to a report by Time magazine earlier this month, the average age of a Ukrainian soldier is now 43, up from 30-35 in March 2022. 

In October, a law came into force requiring women aged between 18 and 60 with medical qualifications to register with conscription authorities. According to a note on the Ukrainian government’s website, “in the future, women may be called up for military service or engaged to perform work to ensure the defense of the state.”

Russia has never rejected peace talks with Ukraine, whereas Ukraine has publicly withdrawn from the negotiation process and outlawed all contact with Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during an online address to G20 leaders on Wednesday.

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