A former jewellery business owner became known as the ‘Punisher’ by Russians after she became a deadly sniper.
Evgeniya Emerald, 31, covered the position on the frontline until a few months ago, when she left to give birth to her first child.
Somewhat linking motherhood and her former military role, Ms Emerald told the BBC: “If a man hesitates whether to make a shot or not, a woman will never. Maybe that’s why women are the ones giving birth, not men.”
Ms Emerald, who in October married a fellow member of the Ukrainian Army she met during the war, received military training after Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014, but joined the Army in 2022, following Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Although she can’t reveal the number of targets she hit since the beginning of the conflict, Ms Emerald made a name for herself as a sniper.
Her deadly skills attracted the attention of Russian propaganda, which has targeted her with hundreds of reports discussing her actions and private life.
Russian media have also referred to her as not just a “punisher” but also a “Nazi”, in line with Vladimir Putin‘s claim the invasion of Ukraine was needed to “denazify” the region and eliminate the threat against his nation.
Ms Emerald doesn’t downplay the mental and physical toll her military role can have on a person, as she said: “Because you can see what is going on.
“You can see hitting a target. This is a personal hell for everyone who sees that in a [sniper’s] scope.”
Similarly, she vividly remember the rush of emotions she felt when she realised that, by joining the Army in a country dragged into a conflict, she would have likely ended up killing another person.
She said: “For 30 seconds I was shaking – my whole body – and I couldn’t stop it. That realisation that now you’ll do something that will be a point of no return.
“But we didn’t come to them with a war. They came to us.”
During her service, Ms Emerald was one of the 5,000 female soldiers on the frontline in her country, according to figures shared by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defence.
The nation’s armed forces count some 60,000 women among their ranks, with more than 42,000 in military positions.
While men remain the large majority, the percentage of women in the Ukrainian military has been growing since the first Russian invasion in 2014, reaching more than 15 per cent in 2020.
War, Ms Emerald said, “doesn’t care whether you are a man or a woman”, with Russian missiles hitting indiscriminately.
After leaving the Army to give birth to her now three-month-old child, she continues to use her popular Instagram account to champion the role of women in her nation’s army and raise their profile.