The Russian Defence Ministry has recommended that new soldiers be checked for tattoos that could indicate that they have had gay sex, specifically recommending that genitals and buttocks be examined.

Damon Murray, co-editor of the “Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volumes I-III”, says the recommendations reflect traditions in the Russian prison system.

“This is a form of ‘lowering,’ basically degrading an inmate, forcing him to become a passive homosexual who could be raped,” said Mr Murray, adding that tattoos are sometimes applied to inmates by force.

“The most common image for this would be a woman entwined with a snake (on the back), or a set of eyes above the buttocks or the penis (making a ‘face’).

“Inmates might also be tattooed with dots or ‘beauty marks’ on the forehead, cheeks or above the upper lip (this signifies a ‘vaflyor,’ a passive partaker in oral sex),” he said.

Igor Kochetkov, a local LGBT activist, said that using tattoos to indicate a person’s sexuality is highly uncommon among gay people.

The Defence Ministry said: “The reason for getting tattoos could indicate a low cultural or educational level. If an influence by external factors is determined, for example, persuasion or direct coercion, this indicates the malleability of the young man, his disposition to submit to another’s will.”

As well as checking for tattoos, their list of ways to investigate a recruit’s sexuality includes asking whether they have a girlfriend, asking to describe their sexual experiences, and questioning whether they think faithfulness is important.

They also recommend inquiring about a recruit’s history with suicide, alcohol, and theft.

Military officers are reportedly uncertain about implementing the new guidelines.

One anonymous battalion captain said, “I just physically can’t so confidentially hold a discussion with each new recruit. The commanders do that anyway. What will they do, examine their genitals for any tattoos? And how will they ask about someone’s first sexual experience? ‘Hey, when did you have your first woman, rookie? Answer directly, no beating around the bush!’”

He added, ” I had one gay contract soldier who joined just to find more partners for himself. For people like that, of course, there’s no place in the Army.”