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Russia's military says no further personnel cuts

RIA Novosti

27/03/2008 14:42 MOSCOW, March 27 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will not scale down its Armed Forces in the near future through ongoing organizational reform, a senior military official said on Thursday.

"We are optimizing the organizational structure of the Russian Armed Forces, but we are not planning any reductions either in the number of troops or the number of staff at the Defense Ministry's central offices," said Colonel General Vasily Smirnov, deputy chief of the General Staff.

Russia has downsized its Armed Forces to about 1.1 million personnel, while the staff at central offices has been reduced to 10,500 personnel.

"All further restructuring will be implemented within these numbers," Smirnov said, adding that the reforms would primarily affect support structures, where civilians could replace military officers.

The scale and the context of military reforms is believed to be a major source of a long-running conflict between the General Staff and the Ministry of Defense, which intensified after the appointment of Anatoly Serdyukov as defense minister.

Russian media have recently circulated reports claiming the country may soon see new faces among its top military commanders as a result of a major military leadership reshuffle.

According to various sources, 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.

Baluyevsky, 61, traditionally thought of as a commanding officer with good strategic planning skills, 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.

Unconfirmed rumors in the Russian media say Baluyevsky has submitted his resignation several times in the past six months and is ready to leave the post shortly after Dmitry Medvedev's inauguration as Russia's new president.

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