At a shooting range in Zaporizhzhya, southeastern Ukraine, six women are learning how to use Kalashnikov assault rifles as part of an urban warfare training program.
Leaning behind temporary walls, one takes aim at a target in the distance, before moving on to another. Most are young and many are dressed in olive-green colours.
This is her third session at “The Sixth Sense,” a security training center in the city, where a team of experts plans to teach women gun skills and urban warfare tactics.
With the edge of the fight drawing closer to the city, 47-year-old Natalia Basova did not think twice about signing up.
For him, the front line is too close.
“I knew how to use weapons before the war. I used to go to the shooting range, I was very interested,” says Basova, who is on the course with her 29-year-old daughter, Ulyana Kiyashko.
“But now everyone needs to know about it,” she says, winning over the sharp crack of a gunshot behind her.
Basova’s husband and son are now on the front lines like her son-in-law. While his men are fighting, he and his daughter try to learn as much as they can about Urban Fighting.
“Our instructors teach us how to take aim and how to use the weapon properly,” she told AFP.
“We knew how to shoot but we didn’t know how to do it properly so you don’t injure your teammates.”
Till now, the center has been training only military personnel or field defense fighters.
But more and more women are coming forward to be trained in Zaporizhzhya, so they are prepared if Russian forces enter the city.
Under martial law, training is free for all residents of the city.
‘We will not let the city down’
Sergei Yellin, who set up the training center, says the basic curriculum includes teaching students to stand up and take aim, trigger control techniques, breathing, and various methods of firing weapons.
For women, the program lasts 15 hours, but he says five or six can be mastered in a basic course.
“We’ve done some tactical drills for civilians because we all know that if the enemy enters the city, there’s a street fight,” said 47-year-old Yellin.
“And it usually happens in hard-to-reach places like ruined homes, basements or inside shops.”
Instructors work with both military and civilians, offering training in three areas: basic weapons handling, a specialized curriculum and a tactical element for Kalashnikov assault rifles, typically for special forces.
Since the start of the Russian offensive on 24 February, about 4,000 people have been trained at the center.
Another student, 33-year-old Yana Piltech, says, “We need to know how to do it for ourselves and our families because we are at the forefront.”
Piltech says she isn’t afraid to fight and won’t hesitate to defend her hometown.
“We are training to win in a fight in the city. And if it comes to that, we will not let the city down.”
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