VILNIUS (Reuters) – Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte was sworn in on Friday as a member of the Riflemen’s Union, a paramilitary volunteer force that supports the police and the army and has seen a surge in applications since Russia invaded Ukraine.
Over 2,000 applications to join the force have been received since the conflict began, bringing total numbers to 12,000, about a third of them women, the Union said.
Members of the union receive limited military training within their units and volunteer to help the police or the military as needed in certain functions.
Simonyte was one of several hundred who took the oath on Friday in front of parliament, on the anniversary of Lithuania becoming the first Soviet republic to declare independence from the Soviet Union, in 1990.
“I see that many people feel restless now,” she said. “Volunteering, for instance with the Riflemen’s Union, is one good activity to turn to.”
The Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, once ruled from Moscow but now part of NATO and the European Union, have received troop deployments from their Western partners to help protect them, and NATO’s eastern border, against any threat from Russia and its close ally Belarus.
Photo – Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte during the oath ceremony as a member of the Riflemen’s Union. Government of the Republic of Lithuania