Russia lets slip the girls of war

11th February 2000 at 00:00
TEENAGE girls in Russia are to be offered military training - already an option for boys - on the school curriculum.

The Russian government has quietly approved the regulations to prepare citizens for military service. Those girls who receive training will be listed in the military reserves and will be liable to call-up in times of war.

At the moment young men leaving school face conscription into the armed forces, then active military service lasting between two and three years.

The new decree extends voluntary classes for girls that used to teach first aid and basic self-defence. Added now are full combat training and practice on the firing range, in preparation for an eventual increase in the number of women serving in Russia's armed forces.

It is expected that many irls may opt for the full military classes as a shrewd career move. When the alternative is unemployment many lower-income families will be pleased that their daughters will receive a small but guaranteed wage from the army.

The extension of military training in schools will also allow girls to compete with the boys for officer training places at elite military academies, opening up avenues for promotion in the armed services.

Russia is looking ahead, probably far ahead, to the abolition of conscription and the formation of professional armed services, and reformers in the military believe women will play a growing role in the ranks.

The school course includes medical training, military theory, drill, and coaching in sports such as biathlon, shooting and swimming.

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