Female Russian sniper with over 40 kills captured in Ukraine after being left for dead
Mum-of-two Irina Starikova (41) is now in captivity after she was found wounded and abandoned
A deadly Russian female sniper with more than 40 kills to her name has been captured in Ukraine after being left for dead on the battlefield, it has been reported.
Mum-of-two Irina Starikova (41), who is codenamed Bagheera, after Rudyard Kipling's black panther in The Jungle Book, is now in captivity after she was found wounded and abandoned by her fellow soldiers.
The captured sniper who is originally from Donetsk and has two daughters – Valeria (11) and Yulia (9) is believed to have “the blood of at least 40 people on her hands, including civilians”.
Her fate is now unknown following a comment attributed to a Kyiv military spokesman that “anyone who kills peaceful people on our land can expect retribution”.
There are claims that she was abandoned by her comrades after she was wounded.
“Knowing that I was injured and having the opportunity to pick me up, they simply decided to leave me there, hoping I would die,” she is quoted as saying.
According to the Peacemaker centre, which researches crimes committed by Russian separatists in the Ukraine war, Starikova served with the forces of the Russian separatist Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, which has been fighting the government in Kyiv since 2014.
She had been sought by the Ukrainians for years over her alleged role in a war crime involving the shooting of prisoners.
Her capture was announced by the Ukrainian armed forces, who said she “shot our prisoners in 2014”, alongside pictures of her.
Starikova’s capture was also confirmed by Giorgi Revishvili, a researcher at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London.
He tweeted that “Ukrainian forces captured infamous sniper fighting on the side of ORDLO, call sign Bagira” referring to the name Kyiv gives to the breakaway Russian-speaking regions.
Revishvili added reportedly she is responsible for “killing 40 Ukrainians including civilians”.
Ukraine’s Obozrevatel news website quotes a soldier named Vlad Ivanov who said that Starikova was provided with medical treatment when captured.
Starikova was a sniper of 11th Specialized Special Operations Division, it was claimed.
According to the Peacemaker centre, she has been awarded the George Cross medal for her work.
The researchers also say she is married to a soldier from Belarus called Aleksandr Ogrenich.
According to a 2017 report from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, he goes by the call sign Gorynych and also fights for the Russian separatists armed forces.
There were other claims that she is believed to have originally been born in Serbia, and, according to some reports, was a former professional handball player named Daniela Lazovic. It is reported that she was once a nun who became a drug trafficker, before covering to Islam.
She has been fighting on behalf of the pro-Russian rebels in Donestk since 2014, when Russia invaded Ukrainian territory in Crimea and parts of the Donbas.
Russia supported the separatist insurgents in eastern Ukraine during a conflict which killed more than 14,000 people in seven years.
The open conflict was triggered by the Ukrainian Revolution in 2014 - when an uprising overthrew the pro-Russian government of Viktor Yanukovych.
Reportedly fighting on the Ukrainian side is a Canadian solider described as one of the world’s deadliest snipers.
The trained killer, nicknamed Wali answered President Volodymyr Zelensky's call for foreign volunteers.
The 40-year-old was previously deployed twice to Afghanistan as a sniper with the Canadian Armed Forces between 2009 and 2011.
Wali had previously travelled to Iraq on his own to fight against ISIS in 2015.
Equipped with a £5,000 military-grade .338 sniper rifle, the feared marksman claims he can kill at a range of 1,531 yards.
Meanwhile, the governor of Ukraine's Chernihiv region has said there has been no let-up in attacks by Russia, despite its pledge to reduce military activity in the region.
The governor, Viacheslav Chaus, took to the Telegram messaging app to denounce Russia's promise.
"Do we believe in it? Of course not," he said, adding Russia had bombarded Chernihiv "all night long".
On Tuesday, Russia said it would cut back operations around Chernihiv and the capital, Kyiv.
Air raid sirens sounded in Kyiv in the early hours of this morning, hours after Russia said it would withdraw some troops from around the capital.
Kyiv's deputy mayor, Mykola Povoroznyk, said the capital itself had not been shelled overnight, although gunfire had been heard from battles around the city.
US and Ukrainian officials say Russia is continuing to reposition forces away from Kyiv, probably as part of an effort to refocus on eastern regions.
Russia's Deputy Defence Minister, Alexander Fomin, said the country would "radically, by several times reduce the military activity" in an effort to "boost mutual trust" in peace talks.
Delegations from Moscow and Kyiv held three hours of discussions in Istanbul on Tuesday aimed at bringing to a close more than a month of fighting in Ukraine.
Ukraine said it had proposed to become a neutral state in exchange for security guarantees. A key aim of Russia's invasion was to stop Ukraine joining the NATO alliance and Russian officials said the talks had moved to a practical stage.
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