Russia to build Reichstag model for youths to storm at park

(AP) -- The Russian military is building a replica of Berlin's Reichstag building as a playground for teenagers to attack at a patriotic theme park.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, who made the announcement Wednesday, said the replica at the Patriot Park just outside Moscow will be smaller than life size. Speaking to Russian parliament, he added to lawmakers' applause that the idea is for Yunarmia members "to storm a specific location, not something abstract."

The images of Soviet Army soldiers hoisting the red flag over the Reichstag in May 1945 have been iconic in Russia.

The Yunarmia, or Young Army, was created in 2015 on Shoigu's initiative to encourage patriotism among schoolchildren, provide physical training and teach them basic military skills.

The German government had no immediate comment on Shoigu's statement, which comes amid a bitter strain in Russia's ties with the West over the war in eastern Ukraine, crisis, the war in Syria and other disputes.

The Reichstag in central Berlin, first opened in 1894, was refurbished after German reunification and in 1999 became the home of the German parliament.

Shoigu said the Patriot Park will also feature a replica of World War II-era Soviet army positions and a forest guerrilla base, among other things. The sprawling theme park also has hosted arms exhibits, military shows and other events.

The Kremlin has turned to World War II to encourage patriotic feelings, as the country's massive wartime suffering and enormous losses form a key element of Russia's national identity.

Victory Day has remained Russia's most important secular holiday, a rallying point for a nation deeply divided over its Soviet-era history.

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