“According to army folklore, rebel commanders recruited the female crack-shots from various Nordic biathlon teams.”
FOR MONTHS, foreign fighters from the Muslim world have been flooding into Syria to take part in the two-year-old civil war there. It’s a pattern common to a number of recent conflicts in the region — outside volunteers enlisting to fight for moral, ideological or religious reasons. But in some cases, it’s cash that’s the motivating factor. At least that’s what supposedly drove the elusive all-girl sniper teams that many Russian soldiers feared were helping enemy insurgents in the first and second Chechen Wars.
Dismissed by many as an invention of overly imaginative (and most likely sexually deprived) young male conscripts, the myth of the white tights was actually given … umm… legs by Moscow no less.
According to army folklore, rebel commanders recruited the female crack-shots from various Nordic biathlon teams. And like something out of James Bond movie, these hired guns were supposedly all fair-skinned, blonde beauties (a combination of Lindsey Vonn and Annie Oakley?). In fact, Russian soldiers dubbed the snipers Beliye Kolgotky or the “White Tights” in reference to the form-fitting spandex bodysuits worn by Olympic women skiers. Other variations of the story described how the shapely sharpshooters dispatched ill-fated soldiers while wearing make-up. Some reported that each of the women collected up to $2,000 from their Chechen employers for every confirmed kill.
Dismissed by many as an invention of overly imaginative (and most likely sexually deprived) young male conscripts, the myth of the white tights was actually given … umm… legs by Moscow no less. According to The Economist in 2000, Kremlin spokesperson Sergey Yastrzhembsky publicly cited official army reports that supposedly verified the existence of the white tights.
“They exist,” the British news magazine quoted Yastrzhembsky as saying. “Military intelligence says so. They don’t make mistakes.”
It was an assertion that quickly drew diplomatic protests from at least one Baltic state — and scorn from Russia’s own federation of biathletes.
Despite this, the Russian military claimed to have arrested at least one 22-year-old Ukrainian female combatant in 2000. For the record, she was taken wearing a Muslim head scarf and combat fatigues, not a Lycra body stocking. Two other women fighters, supposedly snipers (one Ukrainian and the other from the Baltic), were reportedly killed in fighting near Dagestan. To be sure, women are known to have played a significant role in the Chechen conflicts. Consider the Black Widow suicide bombers, many of which were spouses of fallen insurgents. At least 50 women were trained in this role and more than a dozen attacks involving the group were launched between 2000 and 2013.
But as the international media mulled the mystery of the white tights, a number of historians were quick to point out that legends of leggy female killers also gained currency among troops during both the Soviet war in Afghanistan as well as the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh. Some even traced the tale as far back as the Russian Civil War, many news sources have reported. Even more recently, tales of sexy assassins resurfaced among Russian troops deployed to Georgia in 2008.
However, despite the recurrence of the rumours, little in the way of compelling evidence has ever surfaced about the white tights in Chechnya or any other conflict.
(Editor’s Note: Just for the record, this is the strangest story we’ve covered so far at MHN.)