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Tens of thousands of Russian orphans, some as young as eight, are to be recruited into Vladimir Putin's 'youth army' where they will be trained to use machine guns and parachute jump.
Critics have accused Putin's fast-growing 'Yunarmia' of resembling the Hitler Youth in Nazi Germany and say it is an 'immoral' bid to swell army numbers.
Others - Government - Recruitment - Drive - Evidence
Others in the Russian government say the recruitment drive is evidence of the increased militarisation of Russia amid deteriorating relations with the West.
But supporters say the force, set up in 2015 and now numbering more than 353,000 with a suspected target of one million by next year, keeps children out of trouble while fostering patriotism.
Recruits - Drills - Kalashnikovs - Wrestling - Parachute
Recruits from eight to 18 are taught military drills, how to handle Kalashnikovs, wrestling, and parachute jumping.
Declaring this was not 'normal', Col-General Viktor Bondarev, who once headed Russia's strategic rocket forces and is now a senior pro-Putin senator, demanded urgent military training for schoolchildren.
Complaint - Figure - Children - Machine - Guns
This coincides with a complaint by a senior military and political figure that modern children are 'afraid of machine guns' and do not know how the throw a hand grenade.
Controversially Russia's children's ombudsman Anna Kuznetsova is now backing a move that could see the mass recruitment of up to 50,000 Russian orphans of both sexes join the force.
Officials - Role - Interests - Children - Play
She has demanded her regional officials - whose role is to safeguard the interests of children - play an active part in recruiting direct from orphanages for Yunarmia, claimed Novaya Gazeta newspaper.
Critics say these children will not be able to say no because are under the state's direct control.
Soviet - Era - Orphans - KGB
During the Soviet era, orphans were also recruited to the military and KGB.
Expert Alexander Gezalov angrily hit out at the plan to 'dress them in uniform'.
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