National Guard: Number of new volunteers still soaring

The number of new members of the National Guard (Zemessardze) has been continuously soaring since war began in Eastern Ukraine, Leonīds Kalniņš, the Brigadier General of the National Guard said in an interview to Latvian Radio on Wednesday.

The National Guard was established in August 1991 as a voluntary public military self-defense organization.

"Perhaps someone had expected that the interest of Latvian citizens will fall, but by July 1 as many have joined [the National Guard] as they did before in a year - about 750 National Guard. Our main task is to train them," said Kalniņš. 

At the moment, there are about 8,000 National Guard in Latvia. Latvian citizens who have not been convicted and are 18 to 55 years of age can join the National Guard. They also have to fit some physical and mental health criteria.

To improve the development of the National Guard, more guards are participating in the training exercises. He also said that creating a cyber defense unit in the National Guard was also a great step towards development.

Although he was reluctant to speak about the subject, Kalniņš said that the work has been greatly esteemed by experts from the US.

Financial woes are still rife throughout the Guard, though. Despite that the budget of the National Guard has increased by 12% from 2014 to 2015, there's still a lack of equipment, and it's necessary to develop weapons systems and improve communications. Kalniņš said that, ideally, the National Guard would need a few hundred million euros. 

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