14:30 GMT +311 December 2018
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    Women Take on Russian National Guard Rules Seeking Right to Serve as Snipers

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    Over 20,000 of the Russian National Guard's 340,000 personnel are women. Under current guidelines, they are only eligible for service in a limited number of roles, including communications officer, telegraph operator, cook, and other noncombat roles. However, a group of women from southern Russia are looking to shake things up.

    Maj. Gen. Dmitri Virukhin, acting head of the National Guard's Organization and Mobilization Department, has confirmed that eight women in the southwestern Russian city of Saratov have taken the Guard and the defence ministry to court "over the fact that they were not accepted for contract military service as rank-and-file soldiers and special forces troops."

    Asked to clarify, Virukhin said that the women were looking to serve as snipers, but added that in his opinion, "this is not a position for women."

    The women's case is just the latest in a series of similar lawsuits brought by women looking to change current National Guard hiring rules. In September, 22-year-old Yana Surgayeva from Tolyatti challenged Guard and defence ministry guidelines which state that women cannot serve as riflemen, snipers, drivers, mechanics and gunners. The court refused to hear her case, saying the orders restricting women's service options are classified as 'Secret'. A similar case was heard in August, when five other women, also from Tolyatti, sued for the right to serve in the National Guard in combat roles.

    Russia's National Guard was created in 2016 by presidential decree, and constitutes an internal military force formally separate from the armed forces reporting directly to the Russian president. The Guard's responsibilities include border security, counterterrorism, anti-crime and public order roles, as well as the protection of state facilities. About 80,000 of the Guard's total compliment serves under contract, with the rest accounted for by officers and conscripts.

    About 45,000 women serve in the Russian armed forces, including 3,000 officers, comprising about 7 percent of the military's total strength. As in the National Guard, women face limits in the roles they can perform, with most vacancies limited to administrative positions, in line with broader Russian legislation on hard manual labour for women.

    In 2012, lawmakers attempted to pass a law on compulsory military service for women, using the examples of the Norwegian and Israeli militaries as guidelines. The proposal was rejected during debate.

    Soviet women served in active combat roles in large numbers during the Second World War, when over 800,000 enlisted into the ranks of the Red Army or joined the partisans to fight the Nazi invasion. While many women remained behind the lines, they also served as pilots, machine gunners, members of tank crews, and snipers, with their heroic exploits becoming the stuff of legend in the USSR and a source of terror among Axis troops, who were fed rumours about remorseless Soviet women commandos and bomber pilots usually attacking in the dead of night.

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