Jaw-dropping pictures show Russian soldiers battering each other in boxing gloves and crawling through muddy swamps during a brutal endurance test.
Servicemen of the special task force units of the Russian Federal Penitentiary Service were put through their paces on Friday as they battled for their maroon berets in Mordovia.
The enviable garment is a symbol of courage and competence which distinguishes specially-trained elite forces from regular soldiers.
Bloodthirsty endurance tests begin with a five-mile cross country race, with hopefuls expected to wade through chest-high swamps of stagnant water and avoid bullets being showered on them from small firearms.
As if that were not daunting enough, to test their mental stamina a ‘psychological manipulation’ group run alongside them hurling abuse and splashing them with mud.
The men must then show off their skills with military weapons before reaching the final stage – known as ’12 minutes of hell’.
It involves going head-to-head in combat with a person who already holds the maroon beret, battling it out in four three-minute rounds.
A maroon beret contender (right) battles with a soldier who already holds the coveted status symbol in Mordovia on Friday
‘Twelve minutes of hell’: The final bloodthirsty endurance test of head-to-head combat is thought to be the most difficult part of the maroon beret challenge
Contenders crawl through chest-high swamps of mud and stagnant water during a brutal five-mile cross country race
Eyes on the prize: Soldiers throw punches during the final stage of the ferocious endurance test, which involves four three-minute rounds of fighting against different opponents
Mission accomplished: Soldiers embrace while celebrating their achieving the coveted maroon beret in a ceremony after the test
Battered and bruised soldiers line up to receive their maroon berets after completing the brutal endurance test
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Soldiers caked in dirt crawl through thick mud carrying rifles. A ‘psychological manipulation’ group are employed to follow them and test their mental durability
Multitasking: A soldier grips a bag in his teeth and balances his rifle with just two fingers as he crawls through chest-deep mud
Soldiers assume the plank position as they battle their way through the cross country section of the bloody endurance test
Maroon beret contenders duck as they are sprayed with smoke during the cross country element of the challenge
Soldiers who have already earned their maroon berets watch as the hopefuls crawl through a muddy swamp
Contenders soaked in water and covered in mud work together to carry a thick log during the five-mile cross country test
Soldiers prove their strength by carrying a comrade over a deep section of water, balancing them on their shoulders
A strapping soldier with a maroon beret puts the contenders through their paces beside a barbed wire fence
Nerves of steel: A determined soldier perseveres through the treacherous cross country run
A soldier looks worse for wear during the boxing element of the test, which is known as ’12 minutes of hell’
A soldier blocks a punch launched at his head during the final and most dreaded part of the endurance test
Honoured: Battered and bruised soldiers kiss their maroon berets during a ceremony to reward those who passed the endurance test
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