A shocking new video out of Crimea shows Russian efforts to recruit and indoctrinate kids by forcing them through military training exercises, including martial arts lessons and rifle-handling classes.
Shared by Russian state media, the disturbing recording shows a young boy and girl in Simferopol, the peninsula’s second-largest city, racing to assemble Kalashnikov-style rifles at their desks, according to a report from Business Insider.
When the two finish — within moments of each other — another student asks, “Who won?”
Then the video cuts to a group of Crimean schoolchildren toting rifles in what looks like the lobby of a building.
They drop the guns on command, then run through a pre-arranged series of martial arts techniques, shouting with every step.
RIA Novosti, the Russian media organization, reported that the students are some of the first to undergo such military training.
“Now, more than 60 people are engaged in martial arts, drill training, including kindergarten students and school children,” Vladimir Konstantinov, speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Crimea said in a translation. “Children show great interest in activities.”
Dmytro Lubinets, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, confirmed the story on Telegram, according to Newsflare.
Similar basic military courses will be rolled out in Russian schools later this year, Will Vernon, a senior journalist in the BBC’s Moscow news bureau, said in a tweet.
The course is considered the latest piece of a burgeoning effort to slip the Russian military into the country’s schools following President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Business Insider said.
Putin might need the new recruits sooner than he’d like: A casualty estimate from the Center for Strategic and International Studies has placed Russian combat fatalities at between 60,000 to 70,000 in the war’s first year.
In comparison, the Soviet Army lost about 15,000 soldiers during 10 years of fighting in Afghanistan in the 1980s.