Putin: Transition to professional army units must be completed by 2007

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that the transition to professional, permanent combat ready units must be completed by 2007.

In line with approved plans, Russia will continue the formation of professional land, marine and paratrooper units on a permanent combat ready basis, the president announced while making his state of the nation address to the Federal Assembly on Friday.

Moreover, Putin said that units of interior ministry and border-guard forces would also be formed on professional principles.

Vladimir Putin announced that conscripts would only have to do one year of national service from 2008.

"Conscripts will learn special military skills in academic units in the first six months," the president said. "After this, they will have the opportunity to choose to serve out the remaining six months in the units or take up contract, professional service," he continued.

According to him, anyone who serves a three-year contract will have the chance to claim many benefits, including the guaranteed right to a university education paid for by the state.

In addition, the president said that a decision had been taken on the expediency of accepting CIS citizens into the ranks to the Russian army. Following the end of their three-year contract, they will have the right to fast-track Russian citizenship.

According to Putin, much of this will require legislation, so he asked for parliament's support to this end.

The president stressed that the army would be substantially re-equipped with state-of-the-art weapons in the future.

Putin announced that work on the creation of a new generation Russian weapon, which specialists have placed in the strategic category, was in the practical implementation stage.

"This weapon will guarantee the defensive capabilities of Russia and its allies in the long-term," the president emphasised.

"A serious component of the reform of the Armed Forces will be the re-inforcement and modernisation of the nuclear deterrent forces," Vladimir Putin said.

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