A commander in the Russian army who “boasted of how she enjoyed killing Ukrainians” has become the Kremlin’s first senior woman officer to die in the conflict, according to reports. Lieutenant Colonel Olga ‘Kursa’ Kachura was killed when a Ukrainian missile struck her car as she drove in the city of Horlivka, in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. The 52-year-old from Donetsk was a colonel commanding a unit in the forces of the Russian puppet state Donetsk People’s Republic that has been accused of shelling civilians. The Strategic Communications Department of the Armed Forces of Ukraine previously claimed that she would dress as a member of their forces in order to commit war crimes and discredit them.
Kachura worked for most of her life in the police force in her native Donetsk before she resigned for a brief stint in private security. In 2014, when Russian and Russia-backed fighters captured swathes of eastern Ukraine, she joined a battalion of notorious Russian warlord Igor Bezler. Kachura, who studied programming for ballistic missiles, went on to head an artillery unit. In January 2022, a court in western Ukraine found Kachura also known under the alias “Korsa” guilty of taking part in a terrorist organisation and sentenced her to 12 years in prison in absentia. Ukrainian intelligence alleged she personally guided artillery fire during key battles in the Donbas in 2014-2015, causing a great loss of life.
Kachura in an interview with Russian television once said she enjoying fighting with Ukrainians: “I enjoy it every time I fire at Ukrainians.” In her last interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta a week before she died, Kachura, however, insisted it was not the Ukrainians she was fighting against: “What made you think that I’m fighting Ukrainians? I’m fighting Nato. The territory of Ukraine is one military firing range.”
Hailed in eastern Ukraine as a hero, she adopted a boy after the conflict first broke out in 2014 and raised a daughter who briefly survived in her artillery unit. Early on Thursday, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to make her a Hero of Russia, the country’s top military award, “for courage and heroism while performing her military duty”. Kachura’s death comes as Vladimir Putin’s forces suffer setbacks. Ukraine’s military is continuing to target Russian military strongholds, logistical support bases and ammunition depots, pulling intense pressure on the Kremlin.