Russia's airborne forces Commander urges boost in contract servicemen' allowances

The Commander of the Russian airborne forces, Colonel General Georgy Shpak, has said the experiment to transform the Pskov-deployed airborne division into a totally professional (non-conscript) unit is facing certain difficulties.

When addressing a news conference on Monday, General Shpak said the contract servicemen's allowance ceiling made up 4,000 roubles. "This sum is extremely small and must therefore be boosted," emphasised the commander.

Contract servicemen who have families have to rent flats. The general found it inadmissible and urged that the marrieds be provided with hostels and unmarried paratroopers transferred from barracks to the quarters accommodating 3 to 4 men. This is the way western countries resolve the military's housing problem, and that is the most appropriate way, said the general.

The Pskov division is entering the second phase of the experiment, said the Commander. As of December 2, the division's staff vacancies have been 75 percent filled. The servicemen are getting routine combat training.

The second phase is to be completed by the end of April 2003, with the division to be totally staffed.

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