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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 May 2006, 18:14 GMT 19:14 UK
Russia plans wide military reform
Russian soldiers
Sergei Ivanov wants the military to be less top-heavy
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov has announced sweeping plans to modernise the country's armed forces.

He said the priorities would be to reduce the number of conscripts and cut hundreds of generals' and admirals' posts over the next five years.

The defence minister also announced that around 30,000 military support jobs would be axed.

Russian officials have said reforms will be an important step in curbing indiscipline and endemic bullying.

As part of the reforms, 70% of servicemen, and all non-commissioned officers, would be employed under contract in three years.

General cuts

Mr Ivanov said the plans aimed to move the armed forces towards a more professional footing, but he avoided suggestions of a final end to conscription.

He said the cuts would only be made from "bureaucratic posts and auxiliary structures".

"Not one single combat unit, not one unit, will be cut," he said.

"We have plans to cut in the future some 300 generals' and admirals' posts, maintaining a constant ratio of one general or admiral to every 1,000 subordinate service personnel."

Mr Ivanov has previously said the move to a professional army could take a decade or more. But he now appears to be indicating that the process should be accelerated.

Influential

The minister said that in future, funding will be earmarked for development, rather than maintenance of existing equipment and facilities.

He also warned that reports of the US planning to station missile systems in Eastern Europe caused "serious concern" in Russia, and would be taken into account in military planning.

Mr Ivanov is Russia's first civilian defence minister and is an influential political figure, BBC Russian affairs analyst Steven Eke says.

Like President Vladimir Putin, he made his career in the Soviet intelligence services.

He is often referred to by the Russian media as a possible successor to Mr Putin after the 2008 presidential elections.


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