Russian Women Learn To Shoot As Ukraine War Rages
Armed with Soviet-designed Kalashnikov rifles, a group of Russian women with elaborate fingernails and camouflage wear different shooting positions, first aiming for the knee and then at the knee. is belly. The gym where the women gather in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg near the Ural Mountains, about 2,000 kilometers (1,200 miles) from the frontline in Ukraine.
However, the year-long conflict raging in the eastern region of Donetsk has created new military frenzy in Russia and fears that the fighting could return to its homeland.
“We thought that if something were to happen, if – God forbid – there was an attack or some kind of danger, we should learn how to protect ourselves and our loved ones,” said Dr. activist and group founder, Olga Smetanina, told AFP.
“I love Russia so much,” said the 36-year-old mother-of-two, wearing a cap with the letter Z printed on it, symbolizing Russian intervention.
The course is part of an initiative called “Ural Female Guards” launched by Smetanina and other activists in September when the Kremlin announced the mobilization of hundreds of thousands of men.
Her own rhetoric on Ukraine resembles a speech by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who says Kyiv and their Western allies are Nazi sympathizers, setting a looming threat to the Russians.
“Recently there has been too much aggression from other countries against our Russia, against our beloved country,” explains Smetanina of the inspiration for the project.
Weapons, first aid, self-defense
Since Putin sent troops to Ukraine last February, state propaganda has gone too far to heighten feelings of pride in the Russian military. The surge in patriotic messages has prompted some Russians to take military courses such as those in Yekaterinburg, led by veterans of the Ukraine invasion.
Smetanina said her project was born from a post on Russian social networks that suggested the idea. It was met with immediate success.
“Women from all over Russia started calling us,” she said. “And the men were called to show support.”
By December, about 50 women had completed a course that combined training in firearms, self-defense, first aid and drone operations.
Another 50 people are currently taking part in the training, while a third group will start in April, she said.
The two-month course includes three sessions a week at the gym and also includes shooting practice at a range outside the city.
Smetanina proudly says that the participants performed “very well”.
She said their shooting performance was “practically the same” as those of men mobilized for a similar gun training.
One of the cadets, Anastasia Gubankova, said her father and husband were both officers in the army, so it was natural for her to enroll in the course.
“Of course, I hope that I won’t have to use these skills in real life. But if need be, I will,” said the 41-year-old purchasing manager.
‘Someone has to protect us’
Gubankova, a staunch supporter of Putin’s military goals in Ukraine, said she would not object if her 19-year-old son joined the army.
“Someone has to protect us,” she said, wearing a camouflage hoodie with a Z printed on it.
“I was shocked when he said, ‘I won’t be able to live with the thought that I betrayed my grandfather who fought for me'”, a clear reference to the Soviet defeat of Nazi Germany. .
Some women wear elaborate makeup and have long hair. Others take classes without removing their rings or earrings.
Smetanina, who has long blonde locks, said learning how to shoot a gun or throw a grenade would never get in the way of her looks.
“I will always be beautiful. I will curl my hair and try to take care of myself in all circumstances,” she said.
One instructor, who has been dubbed “Zulus” and conducts first aid training, admits he was skeptical at first.
But that changed when he saw the women in action.
“I realized I was wrong. It was a real female security guard,” he told AFP.
Smetanina is currently planning a new project called “Generation Z Center” to promote patriotism in both adults and children.
Even if Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine ends soon, Smetanina said she will continue her projects.
“We don’t know what will happen in a year, two years or a decade,” she said.
“But we will always have weapons in our hands and know the right fist.”
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)
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