Vladimir Putin is grooming 42,000 kids as young as TEN at military schools in 'patriotism' project compared to the Hitler Youth

THIS is Vladimir Putin's Young Army – battalions of schoolchildren as young as ten who are groomed Soviet-style in military skills and patriotism.

Unveiled last year, the Yunarmia has already recruited more than 42,000 youngsters – but critics say it has echoes of the Hitler Youth.

Recent TV pictures showed star recruits from Moscow being presented to the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation at a time of rising tensions with the West.

Yunarmia is a "military and patriotic" organisation in which kids as young as ten are taught military drills, handle Kalashnikovs, practice wrestling and learn to make parachute jumps.

The oath of boy and  girl "yun-armists" (young soldiers) reads: "I swear to aim for victories in studies and sports, to live a healthy lifestyle, to make myself prepared for the service and labour for the sake of the Motherland, to cherish the memory of the heroes who fought for freedom and independence of our Motherland, to be a patriot and a dignified citizen of Russia."



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The moving force behind the young army was hawkish defence minister Sergei Shoigu, a close ally of Putin's.

The project began in Yaroslavl last May with just over 2,000 cadets, and was extended nationwide in September.

Officially the new set-up is known as the Voluntary Society of Support for the Army, Air Force and Navy, or DOSAAF, and it mirrors a Soviet organisation.

Recruit Igor Izbayev, 18, from Yekaterinburg, said: "Yunarmia is increasing the patriotic spirit of the country.

"It is now popular. Hard times, wars are everywhere. It is necessary to increase the patriotism to avoid the civil war like in Ukraine.

"There is never too much patriotism."

When the young army was established, General-colonel Alexander Kolmakov said that reviving an old tradition of children and youth organisations can lead to the "growing of a generation of citizens who treat the history with care, who are kind and responsive, ready to build a bright future for themselves and for their country".

His phrase "bright future" was widely used in Soviet times to describe the expected great future of the USSR when Communism finally triumphed over the West's capitalism.

Kolmakov said last year: "The Yunarmia movement, created upon the initiative of the Russian Defence Ministry and supported by the President of Russian Federation, will unite all organisations and bodies that train the citizens before they join the army.

Russia has witnessed a surge of nationalism since Putin's land grab in Crimea in 2014.

The Russian army is accused of supporting pro-Putin rebels in eastern Ukraine, amid fears a new war could erupt.

And Moscow's forces have been deployed in Syria propping up the Assad regime.

Top brass launched the young army saying they want to make the country's "growing number of patriotic military movements" more structured.

Some young army groups are sponsored by major enterprises, for example the Ural Mining and Metallurgical Company.

Russian sports stars are backing the initiative including Olympic pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva, 34, and Olympic gymnast Svetlana Khorkina, 38.

And the first ever woman in space, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, 79, attended an "initiation ceremony" to welcome to new "conscripts".

She told the children: "I hope that studies and practical training will give you a chance to join the Russian Army later and to become the true defenders of our Motherland."

Children will practise marching and firing pneumatic guns and will study tactics and the military history of Russia, plus the basics of first aid.

One Russian website complained that the young army was "plagiarising Hitler Youth".

It stated: "Something similar to German organisation Hitler Youth is coming from Russia" – but the report was swiftly removed from the internet.

Other criticism has been more muted.

Irina Abankina, head of the Institute for development of education: "Beyond any doubt, education in the spirit of responsibility and patriotism is extremely important. However, it is very easy to cross the line and go into a lot more aggressiveness."

In the 1930s the sinister Hitler Youth had up to four million indoctrinated child members aged 10 to 18, with boys trained to use bayonets and rifles and girls trained for motherhood.

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