STORY: Fourteen-year-old Russian schoolboy David learned something new this month: firing accurately with a Kalashnikov is trickier than with a pistol.

He tried out the weapons in the southern city of Vladikavkaz as part of basic military training, which has been reintroduced since the start of Russia's war in Ukraine.

It was dropped in the last years of the Soviet Union.

Critics see it as part of a growing militarization of society since Russia invaded Ukraine.

"I will gain some experience firing a pistol and an assault rifle. It will make life easier when I've accomplished this training, both physical and military."

Military service is compulsory for young men in Russia, whose war in Ukraine is now well into its third year.

Sergei Menyailo is a retired vice-admiral who is now the leader of Russia's North Ossetia region.

He told the boys the "special military operation", which is how the Kremlin refers to the Ukraine war, meant they'd need such training.

"The purpose of your training is to teach you certain skills which will be useful in any situation. And, to instill the team spirit into you. It will help you to work, live, and if you will have to fight, to fulfil your military duty within a team."

Boris Kantemirov is local head of a volunteer organization that supports the armed forces.

"We have developed our own system of training for high school students. It encompasses physical, medical and firing training. Those are the skills which any soldier will need regardless of service branch. Everybody must be able to save lives, handle weapons and be physically fit."

The education ministry introduced basic military training to the curriculum in late 2022.