"White Tights" (also "White Pantyhose" or White Stockings; the beliye kolgotki, Russian: белые колготки; Latvian: baltās zeķbikses; Estonian: valged sukkpüksid) is a Russian urban myth surrounding the alleged participation of female sniper mercenaries in combat against Russian forces in various armed conflicts from late 1980s. The myth describes these women as blond Amazon-like nationalistic biathletes turned anti-Russian mercenaries. They come predominantly from the Baltic states, but subsequent variations of the myth have diversified the ethnic composition of the snipers, including Ukrainian, Russian women in their midst. The name "White Tights" originates from the white-coloured winter sports attire these snipers were wearing and was first coined during the Nagorno-Karabakh War.
The phenomenon was first reported during the late 1980s, with female Baltic irregulars being rumoured fighting with the resistance in the Soviet war in Afghanistan. It appeared first in the English-language media only in conjunction with the post-Soviet First and Second Chechen Wars. Attempts have been made to link the alleged presence of the "White Tights" in Chechnya, not only with the special forces and intelligence services of the Baltic states, but also to the positive relations Chechen leader Dzhokhar Dudayev enjoyed with both the government of independent Estonia and Lithuanian politician Vytautas Landsbergis. Sergey Yastrzhembsky, the chief spokesman of the Kremlin during the early phase of the Second Chechen War, argued that female Baltic snipers actually existed based on evidence from GRU military intelligence, who "don't make mistakes". The government of Estonia has asked for the evidence behind the claims and sent diplomatic notes twice to Russia without receiving an official answer.
2008 South Ossetia war
In November 2008, Aleksandr Bastrykin, head of the Russian Federation Prosecutor-General's investigative committee, has suggested that mercenaries from the Baltic states were among those known to have participated on the Georgian side during the 2008 South Ossetia war, including a female sniper from Latvia. Earlier during the conflict, Russia Today TV had reported the South Ossetian authorities as saying that "there was a group of women snipers operating in the city [i.e., Tskhinvali]", and that "Ukrainians and citizens of the Baltic countries have been among the prisoners they have detained." These reports have resurrected the rumours of "White Tights" operating in the Caucasus. A spokesman for the Latvian Ministry of Defence, Airis Rikveilis, commented Bastrykin's statements as follows: "We had thought that the ghost of the 'White Tights' had died in the Russian press, but now we see that it still roams Russia."
2014 Ukrainian Crisis
On May 2nd 2014, Sergey Golyandin, a correspondent of Russian news-outlet "Life News" in Ukraine, reported unconfirmed information about Baltic women snipers in action against pro-Russian forces during Siege of Sloviansk:
One minute ago APCs arrived and cannon fired at the BZS checkpoint, situated between Kharkiv and Rostov. Self-defense forces had to be moved out of there. The commander of the checkpoint arrived and said that besides the APCs firing they were also shot by snipers and from what he heard the snipers were women who spoke in some Baltic language. Currently the information has not been verified, these are only words of the BZS checkpoint commander.
In popular culture
White Tights have also appeared in the Russian popular media, such as in Aleksandr Nevzorov's 1997 film Purgatory (Russian: Чистилище). In the film, two Lithuanian "biathletes" are portrayed as sadistic mercenary snipers fighting for the Chechen rebels. A much more sympathetic character of a Lithuanian female sniper appeared in Andrei Konchalovsky's 2002 film House of Fools, portrayed by Cecilie Thomsen.
- Whitmore, Brian (9 October 1999). "Myth of Women Snipers Returns". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 7 December 2008. (alt. link)
- Абдулаева, Майнат (13 April 2000). Где шьют белые колготки? Мифы второй чеченской. Новая газета (in Russian). Retrieved 2 January 2009. See Myth no. 3.
- Янченков, Владимир (1 April 2000). "Дикие гусыни" в белых колготках. Tpyд (in Russian). Retrieved 2 January 2009.
- Маетная, Елизавета (6 April 2001). Волчицы в белых колготках. Moskovskij Komsomolets (in Russian). Retrieved 2 January 2009. (alt. link)
- Rislakki, Jukka (2008). The Case for Latvia. Disinformation Campaigns Against a Small Nation: Fourteen Hard Questions and Straight Answers about a Baltic Country. Amsterdam; New York: Rodopi. p. 27. ISBN 978-90-420-2424-3. OCLC 237883206.
- Higgins, Andrew (11 March 1995). "Document check on the borders of madness". The Independent. Retrieved 4 December 2008.[dead link]
- Faurby, Ib; Magnusson, Märta-Lisa (1999). "The Battle(s) of Grozny" (PDF). Baltic Defence Review 1999 (2): 77. ISSN 1736-1265. Retrieved 4 December 2008.
- Другая эстония (in Russian). Канал «Совершенно Секретно». Retrieved 4 December 2008.
- "Are foreigners fighting there?". The Economist. 6 June 2000. Retrieved 7 December 2008. "The blonde Baltic snipers, who are called beliye kolgotky (white tights) by the Russians, after their supposed favourite costume, are even more puzzling. Estonia has twice sent diplomatic notes to Russia, asking for the evidence behind the claims. So far, no answer. "They exist. Military intelligence says so, and they don't make mistakes," says Mr Yastrzhembsky's office." (alt. Google Books link)
- "Russia says U.S. mercenaries, others fought for Georgia". Reuters. 24 November 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2008.
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- "Украинцы планируют убийства в Грузии?" (in Russian). KMnews.RU. 13 August 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2008.
- LETA (24 November 2008). "Krievija: Gruzijas pusē karoja NATO algotņi, arī Latvijas snaipere" (in Latvian). Delfi.lv. Retrieved 4 December 2008.
- Winiarski, Michael (30 November 2008). "Kallblodiga baltiska kvinnor går igen". Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish). Retrieved 5 December 2008.
- "‘Not enough coffins’ as rescuers restore war-torn capital". Russia Today. 15 August 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2008.
- Hodge, Nathan (25 November 2008). "The Return of 'White Tights': Mythical Female Snipers Stalk Russians". Retrieved 4 December 2008.
- Ozoliņš, Aivars (26 November 2008). "Zeķbikses galvā". Diena (in Latvian). Retrieved 4 December 2008.
- "Krievija: Gruzijas pusē karoja NATO algotņi, arī Latvijas snaipere". nra.lv (in Latvian). 24 November 2008. Retrieved 4 December 2008. "Mēs jau bijām domājuši, ka "balto zeķubikšu rēgs" Krievijas presē ir miris, tomēr tagad mēs redzam, ka tas joprojām klīst par Krieviju[.]"
- Life News coverage (May 2, 2014)
- Коняхов, Сергей (4 April 1998). Пекло "Чистилища". Молодежь Эстонии (in Russian). Retrieved 7 December 2008. "Это как бы и не чеченцы: хладнокровно за доллары убивают биатлонистки-снайперши из Литвы - такая "у белых колготок" работа, отрезают головы пленным боевики из Афганистана - дикий народ, в отряде - непонятно откуда взявшееся черномазое отребье - наемники выглядят просто недоумками."