Putin Meets Defence Ministry's Leaders

On Wednesday, Vladimir Putin has met the leadership of the Russian Defence Ministry to finalise the federal target programme to man permanent readiness units primarily with contract servicemen.

The conference was attended by Russia's Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces Anatoly Kvashnin, Commander of Air Forces Georgy Shpak and Head of the Main Organisation and Mobilisation Directorate of the Defence Ministry Vasily Smirnov.

Sergei Ivanov told the President that the Defence Ministry and other security departments were finalising the programme. The defence minister said that some amendments to legislation were put forward to ease the manning of the army with CIS contract soldiers.

In line with the programme to be implemented in 2004-2007 167,000 contract servicemen will serve in the army as soldiers and sergeants. Ivanov recalled that the current experiment to man the 76th Airborne Division with contract soldiers sometimes encountered some obstacles as well.

The minister said that by the end of the year the experiment would be finished and the 76th Division would be manned with contract soldiers only.

Vladimir Putin said that the federal target programme would be considered by the government in late April and approved in June. "This should be done as soon as possible, because the work on the budget has almost started," the president emphasised.