Russian School children will soon be taught military skills such assembling assault rifles as part of a new drive by the Russian defence ministry.
The training will reportedly be carried out by a revived Soviet-era organisation called Yunarmiya – also known as the Young Army.
Skills taught will include assembling assault rifles, shooting and parachute jumping, as well as theoretical teaching such as military history and tactics.
The movement was launched today as a pilot scheme in the city of Yoraslavl, and is set to go nationwide in September.
ALSO READ: PRESIDENT MUGABE BECOMES A GRANDFATHER AT 92
Russia’s Ministry of Defense has said it will meet the “acute demand for the growing sense of patriotism and service to the country”, according to local Russian press.
Military education is already offered in schools, but the ministry hopes the pilot will make the country’s “growing number of patriotic military movements” more structured.
The age range of the students is not yet known – but reports say children could start the training as young as the age of 10.
Officials stress that the training will be in addition to normal existing lessons and that attendance will not be compulsory.
It is thought students will wear uniform and units will have their own “headquarters” and banner.
Russia has seen a surge in nationalism since Moscow annexed Crimea in 2014 and launched military campaigns in Ukraine and Syria.
Nationalist groups have been on the rise and in January the Russian government more than doubled funding for a ‘patriotic education’ programme.
Reaction to the introduction of military training appears to be mixed.
Valentina Melnikova, head of a soldiers’ rights group in Russia, told local news Gazeta: “Attempts to militarise children are a violation of their rights”.
But Russian citizens have said they are not surprised. A resident of Russia told The Independent: “Since the Russian-Ukraine conflict started the surge in nationalism is big, so it’s not surprising that this type of programs is being reintroduced.
“Most people take this stuff in stride. But Putin’s propaganda machine is extremely effective.”