Russia will train its army to play badminton to improve its battle prowess after the racket sport won a surprise personal endorsement from President Dmitry Medvedev, a newspaper said Monday.

Izvestia newspaper said the Russian defense ministry next year would purchase some 10,000 badminton rackets and tens of thousands of shuttlecocks, and snipers will be among the first units to start playing the game.

Badminton has never been particularly popular in Russia but now appears to be turning into a new fad after the country's 46-year-old president last month unexpectedly offered a eulogy of the game, saying it helped "solve different problems."

Wearing a tight-fitting sports shirt and tracksuit bottoms, Medvedev was shown in his video blog encouraging Russians to play badminton and exchanging a few shuttlecocks with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The video appeared a month after Medvedev announced that he would step aside after just one term in office to allow his mentor Putin to reclaim his old Kremlin job in March presidential polls, prompting derision from critics.

But army chiefs said badminton would help make Russians better soldiers.

"During a game of badminton you use the same muscles as when you throw grenades, knives and other objects," Alexander Shchepelev, head of the defence ministry's physical training department, told Izvestia.

"Therefore this sport is very good for all soldiers without exception. But it will be especially good for shooters and snipers because watching a shuttlecock trains eye muscles, strengthens a heart-vascular system and develops quick reactions."

A defence ministry spokesman did not deny the Izvestia report but disputed the number of rackets that would be ordered, without giving a precise figure.

"Playing badminton will not be compulsory for all the military," the spokesman told AFP.

Military analysts said badminton was an odd sport to promote in the army.

"They better take up combat firing," Anatoly Tsyganok, head of the Center of Military Forecasting, was quoted as saying. "Half of the generals do not know how to shoot."