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Tuesday, June 30, 1998 Published at 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK

World: Europe

Russia's secret weapon

Dana Borisova shows the troops her martial prowess

The BBC's Robert Parsons: "Once a whole platoon wrote to say it was in love with her."
Russia's army conscripts face a daunting time during their two years of service.

Rations are meagre and bullying is rife. Some soldiers reportedly even have to resort to begging to survive.

But, according to BBC Russia Correspondent Rob Parsons, Dana Borisova is leading a one-woman crusade to help.

She hosts a TV programme, Army Magazine, aimed at boosting morale.

[ image: Playboy persuaded Dana to appear]
Playboy persuaded Dana to appear
Dana is a combination of agony aunt and pinup for the soldiers, thousands of whom write to her.

Once a whole platoon wrote to say they were in love with her.

Her trademark is her stripy paratrooper's T-shirt. She was once persuaded to remove it, however, for the Russian edition of Playboy.

Her popularity soared, but "several generals disapproved", she says.

[ image: Miss Militia crowned in this year's Miss Red Star contest]
Miss Militia crowned in this year's Miss Red Star contest
"They said there was no place for naked women in the army and some even called for an investigation because the photos were taken with me on military equipment like tanks and helicopters."

The generals are scandalised by what they see as her show's frivolity.

It sponsors Miss Red Star - a beauty contest for women in the armed forces and police.

This led the Ministry of Defence to withdrew its funding.

However, the show goes on supported by civilian money, to the relief of thousands of soldiers.

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