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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 November, 2004, 15:03 GMT
Putin vows Russian weapons boost
By Steve Rosenberg
BBC correspondent in Moscow

Russian military exercises
Russia's military is still coming to terms with defeat in the Cold War
Russia will in the next few years put into service new nuclear missile systems unlike those held by any other country, its president says.

Vladimir Putin was addressing army chiefs in Moscow.

But a speech at the same meeting by the country's defence minister painted a grim picture of the current state of Russia's armed forces.

The forces are marked by high suicide levels and rising rates of criminal offending, Sergei Ivanov admitted.

Russian resurgence?

For an army still struggling to come to terms with defeat in the Cold War, and then with Nato's enlargement eastwards, Mr Putin's announcement today came as something of a patriotic boost.

Mr Putin promised military chiefs they would soon be getting some of the most advanced weapons in the world.

Russia, he said, had been testing state-of-the-art nuclear missile systems that no other county had, or would have any time soon.

Today more Russian solders are killing themselves than are being killed in Chechnya
They were necessary, he said, for maintaining Russia's guard in the war on international terrorism.

Moscow has indicated before that it has been trying to develop modern rocket systems - but the promise of pioneering weaponry failed to cover up the crisis in the Russian armed forces.

Reporting back to the president, Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said that more than 900 Russian servicemen had lost their lives so far this year - one quarter of the deaths the result of suicide.

Russian soldiers on parade
Bullying has been described as systematic in the Russian army
It means that today, according to official figures, more Russian solders are killing themselves than are being killed in Chechnya.

Human-rights campaigners say the high suicide rate is the result of organised bullying of conscripts.

The defence minister admitted, too, that the number of soldiers committing crimes was on the rise.

And he complained that servicemen were growing poorer - army wages, he said, had not been index-linked and were being eaten up by inflation.


SEE ALSO:
Russia bares its military teeth
02 Oct 03 |  Europe


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