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Army parades its beauties

Moscow, March 4 (Reuters): Russian women soldiers strutted in uniform and took questions on army life today as they vied for the title of “Miss Epaulettes 2003”, a beauty contest aimed at boosting the appeal of Russia’s cash-strapped army.

A defence ministry spokesman said a group of 16 finalists, chosen from 90,000 female engineers, liaison officers and medical staff, had to show their military aptitude.

“The aim is to make service in the armed forces more attractive,” Colonel Vadim Tarasov of the defence ministry said.

“We hope to promote the defence of the fatherland and to raise the prestige of army service.”

The winner will be announced on the eve of March 8, International Women’s Day and a public holiday in Russia.

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