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Training away day, Kremlin-style

Two Russian officials say they were expected to lie down as armoured personnel carriers were driven over them as part of a new training programme for future regional governors.

The two participants in the course, who wished to remain anonymous, told the RBC news portal that they also had to make parachute jumps, throw hand grenades, and fire pistols and automatic weapons.

“Three hopefuls left after the parachute jumps with leg injuries, and another with a bad back,” one participant said. “The jumps were designed for guys weighing 60-70 kg, not 100 kg (16 stone),” he said, adding that he couldn’t explain what the aim of the exercise was.

The other participant was clearer on this, saying “anyone who hasn’t yet been appointed” to a senior post has to take part, in order to develop their “military endurance and readiness for defence”.

The exercises at the Kubinka military range near Moscow seem to be the latest stage of a gruelling training course organised by the Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration. Footage of newly-appointed governors leaping into gorges at the Agura waterfalls near Sochi in an earlier stage made it to RBC last month.

‘Militarisation of civilian power’

The nine-month course has eight stages, with candidates travelling to Malaysia and Singapore this winter before everything is wrapped up in February, the participants told RBC. Other modules include lectures by guest speakers from the government and managers of major companies close to the Kremlin, as well as course work.

RBC approached some of the 40 other officials who allegedly took part in the course, including a number of MPs, but none would confirm their participation and one flatly denied it.

Media critical of the government have expressed unease at the nature of the training. The Novye Izvestia web site denounced it as “high-speed militarisation of civilian power”, and Vedomosti newspaper fears it is part of a plan to create an “official caste of senior administrators”.

President Putin began the autumn with a clear-out of nearly 20 older governors, and RBC is not alone in seeing this – and the training programme – as a means of ensuring vigorous loyalists are in place to ensure the March presidential elections go smoothly.

Reporting by Maria Kiseleva and Martin Morgan

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