Russian Ministry of Defence proposes teaching knife combat in schools

Russia's Ministry of Defence has proposed a bill which could offer students as young as 15 years old lessons in shooting and knife combat in a bid to raise preparedness for military service before the call up age of 18, national daily newspaper Izvestia reports.

Conscription is still part of Russia's armed forces, however figures from medical assessments of 270,000 conscripts between 2007 and 2014 indicated that 73% of them were in "unsatisfactory" physical condition. The bill's drafters say that they seek to develop "basic physical qualities" and promote "moving habits" in potential conscripts before they join the armed forces.

The bill, consisting of proposed amendments to the existing law on military service, could introduce a new discipline in Russian schools providing "pre-emptive preparation for youths prior to age of conscription eligibility," should it win parliament's approval.

Citing the ministry's proposal, Izvestia adds that "senior students," meaning those in their final two years of school, could be offered lessons in sports with skills applicable to military practice such as shooting, knife combat, military pentathlon and karate. The paper highlights that the lessons will be offered on a voluntary basis.

The proposed law has already attracted support in Russia's lower house of parliament with Roman Hudyakov, MP from Russia's pro-Kremlin Liberal Democrat party (LDPR) praising the bill as an attempt to restore the level of military preparedness during the days of the USSR. Amendments to the Russian constitution must be subject to a vote in parliament before they can be ratified by the government.

"In the Soviet Union our schools prepared young people for military service. Every boy could use a weapon, he could defend himself and his loved ones," Hudyakov said. "It is important to inspire patriotic feelings in young people. "

According to the Moscow military commissariat, which is responsible for delivering military call ups in the area, around 15% of prospective recruits are unfit for duty, however Tatyana Kuznetsova from servicemen's rights group Soldier's Mothers warned that a wider national study of student's ability to withstand pre-military training needs to be conducted before such training is introduced as an academic discipline.

"Not every young child can undergo such physical training. Many already exhibit health problems at a young age," she added.

150,000 young men are to be drafted into the Russian military by July this year, in what is usually compared to a proverbial annual game of 'hide and seek' in Russia as many try and avoid service.

Earlier this year the defence head of the upper house of Russian parliament promised to support a bill which would ban draft dodgers from holding government positions.