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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Russia may soon reshuffle top military brass - defense source

RIA Novosti

21/03/2008 12:12 MOSCOW, March 21 (RIA Novosti) - Russia may soon see new faces among its top military commanders as the result of a major military leadership reshuffle, a high-ranking Defense Ministry source said on Friday.

According to the source, one of the most high-profile figures in the shake-up will be Chief of the Russian General Staff Gen.Yury Baluyevsky, who could leave his post as early as May. He is likely to be replaced by one of his deputies.

"We are expecting that Baluyevsky's first deputy, Lt. Gen. Alexander Burutin will be appointed new Chief of the General Staff," the source said.

Baluyevsky, 61, has occupied his current post since July 2004. In December last year, his term of service was extended for another three years.

The source said a reshuffle at the General Staff was long overdue and the appointment of Burutin would be beneficial both for the Armed Forces and the defense industry.

Experts believe that the new reshuffle is the result of a long-running conflict with the Ministry of Defense, which intensified after the appointment of Anatoly Serdyukov as defense minister.

Baluyevsky has traditionally been thought of as a low-profile commanding officer with good strategic planning skills, but has recently expressed strong criticism over some controversial issues in Russia's military policy, including the relocation of the Navy Headquarters from Moscow to St. Petersburg and the role and place of the General Staff in the management of the Russian military.

The Defense Ministry declined to comment on the possibility of Baluyevsky's retirement, but confirmed that the army chief was currently on a planned vacation.

Baluyevsky did not attend the talks on the U.S. missile shield planned for Poland and the Czech Republic with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates held in Moscow on March 18.

Unconfirmed rumors in the Russian media say Baluyevsky submitted his resignation three weeks ago.

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