Russia to downsize army to one million by 2013

By RIA Novosti,

Moscow : The Russian armed forces will be slimmed to one million personnel by 2013, three years ahead of a planned troops reduction deadline.

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“We plan to do this by 2013,” Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov Monday said after a meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev.

He said under a previous plan, the troops strength was to have gone down to 1,100,000 personnel by 2011 and to 1,000,000 by 2016.

“We intend to move faster and understand that budgetary allocations will have to be raised considerably,” Serdyukov said.

A senior Russian General Staff official said earlier that the defence ministry was considering reducing the number of officers by moving some of them – mainly rear service officers and others on non-combat duty – to civilian jobs.

Officers currently account for 30 percent of the total strength of the Russian armed forces as against around 16 percent in most countries.

Serdyukov said the ministry had asked for 100 billion rubles ($4.2 billion) for 2009-2011 to supplement monthly salaries for 30,000 officers serving air force, navy, strategic missile forces, and space troops.

Using soaring oil and gas revenues, Russia has moved to modernize the armed forces and make military service more attractive.

The country has also taken steps to move from conscription to a professional army. Former president Vladimir Putin had cut compulsory military service from two years to 18 months in 2007 and to one year in 2008.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union the Russian armed forces have been plagued by corruption, hazing and widespread draft dodging, which along with a physically unfit population, have created difficulties in meeting recruitment goals.

Serdyukov, a former tax inspector with no military background, was appointed defence minister by Putin last year and instructed to streamline management.

Earlier this year, Serdyukov ordered sale of military property – mainly unused shooting ranges and neglected buildings – on Moscow’s elite Rublyovskoye highway in a bid to raise housing funds for families of over 100,000 service personnel, including those of retired officers.