President Putin Approves Federal Programme on Manning Power Agencies with Contract Soldiers

Russian President Vladimir Putin has approved the basic provisions of the federal purpose programme for manning some units of the Russian armed forces with contract soldiers, said Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov on Wednesday after a meeting with the head of state.

Ivanov added that the programme must be finally approved by June 1st "to be included in the 2004 budget".

The minister said that "one of the most crucial provisions" is that "the contract system will be introduced in those units that can carry out combat missions if a military conflict breaks out." The minister said that the president had been informed about the Defence Ministry's intention to recruit to contract service citizens of the CIS countries as well as Russian citizens.

Chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin said in turn that "the number of contract soldiers has been established." According to him, their number will be 170,000 men on the whole and up to 130,000 in the Russian Armed Forces.