MOSCOW (Reuters) - Forget nuclear missiles. Russia's military arsenal will soon be bristling with badminton rackets.
Hoping to keep soldiers and recruits in fighting form without great expense, the Defense Ministry plans to buy 10,000 badminton rackets and tens of thousands of shuttlecocks next year, the newspaper Izvestia reported Monday.
Call it military exercise.
"Playing badminton uses the same muscles as throwing grenades, knives or other objects," Izvestia quoted the head of the ministry's physical preparation department, Colonel Alexander Shchepelev, as saying.
"That's why this sport is very good for all servicemen without exception."
Watching the birdie will be particularly good practice for snipers and riflemen, he was quoted as saying.
"Following the shuttlecock trains the eye muscles, strengthens the cardiovascular system and develops reaction speed."
Sport complexes at seven facilities for Russian draftees have ten marked-out badminton courts each, and military bases will also receive rackets and shuttlecocks, Izvestia cited officials in the armed forces general staff as saying.
Soldiers might want to watch their language on the court and avoid swearing over missed shots. The military is considering introducing a ban next year on use of Russia's rich vocabulary of swear words among servicemen, Izvestia reported last week.
The military's big plans for badminton may be part of a Kremlin-inspired jump in attention to the sport.
President Dmitry Medvedev praised badminton in an online clip last month that also showed the 46-year-old head of state squaring off against a paunchier-looking Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, 59, who plans to return to the presidency next year.
Both leaders have emphasized the importance of fitness and sports for the future of Russia, where alcohol, smoking and heart disease contribute to a persistent population decline.
Writing by Steve Gutterman, editing by Paul Casciato