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Women to train as Russian air force pilots

© AFP/File | Russia says it hopes the first women pilots will be qualified to fly missions within five years

MOSCOW (AFP) - 

Female candidates are to be accepted for the first time to train as pilots for Russia's air force, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Saturday, adding there were so many applications that "we can't ignore them".

"There are many young women who would like to become military pilots. We have received hundreds of letters," he said, according to a ministry statement.

"That's why we've decided that this year we will enrol a first group of women at the military academy of Krasnodar," in southern Russia, he said.

"There will be few of them, 15 in all. But given the quantity of applications that we receive, we can't ignore them. From October 1, the first group of women will start to train to become pilots," he said, adding that he hoped they will be qualified in five years.

Since 2009, the Krasnodar flying academy has accepted female students but not for pilot training, according to the TASS news agency.

In 2014, a senior defence ministry official, Ruslan Vassilev, told Echo Moskvi radio that some 45,000 women serve in the Russian army, although they are barred from some functions, notably combat roles.

In total Russia's armed forces numbered nearly 2 million people this year, including 1 million on active service, according to official figures.

© 2017 AFP