Should Russia have a foreign legion, like France? A Russian lawmaker thinks such a concept could address the threat of the Islamic State (IS) group in Russia and Central Asia.
The proposal, by State Duma Deputy Roman Khudyakov of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) faction, comes amid growing fears over the influence of the IS in Russia and former Soviet Central Asian republics.
The Russian lawmaker said that a Russian foreign legion could guarantee stability in Central Asia, and oppose possible aggression from Islamic State militants operating in the region.
According to Khudyakov's proposal, as reported in the Russian media, a Russian foreign legion would be a part of the Russian armed forces, and all commanders would be Russian nationals. Its mission would be to deal with IS terrorists before they reached Russian soil, and would avoid the need for Russian servicemen to participate directly in hostilities.
Khudyakov has suggested the idea to Russia's Ministry of Defense and the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a military alliance of six post-Soviet states including Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
Legionnaires would receive a salary equivalent to that of a Russian serviceman, and would be able to apply for Russian citizenship after six years of service, the proposal says.
Khudyakov believes that this will be an attractive proposition for nationals from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.
Khudyakov's proposal is the latest in a series of indications of growing concern that the former Soviet Central Asian republics could become a hotbed of IS recruitment and radicalization, and that Central Asian migrant workers particularly in the Russian capital, Moscow, could pose a domestic threat. Russian media reports last week suggested that members of the so-called "Grand Theft Auto" gang that had terrorized Moscow detained in a wave of arrests were Central Asian migrant workers linked to Islamic State.
The Russian Defense Ministry has not responded to Khudyakov's proposal, according to media reports. However, Russia's TASS news agency reported that "military experts" were "wary" of the proposed initiative.
"If the legion will consist of representatives of Central Asia, then experts believe that there is a possibility that the armed legionnaires could go over to Islamic State. No one can guarantee that they would not defect to the enemy during military action," TASS warned.
Khudyakov is known for his creative proposals for new legislation to address a variety of social issues. His suggestion earlier this year that Moscow remove an image of the Greek god Apollo from the 100-ruble banknote, on the grounds that minors could be damaged by seeing the immortal's naked loins, was rejected.
-- Joanna Paraszczuk