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Russia: Defense Minister Committed To Military Reforms

Moscow, 4 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russia's Defense Minister today reaffirmed the government's determination to reform the country's armed forces, saying the planned reforms were "urgently needed."

Igor Sergeyev, addressing the Federation Council, said the Russian armed forces were "in critical condition and continue to deteriorate." He said "tough, unpopular, at times very painful measures" were needed to preserve the defense system of the country.

Sergeyev also gave a clear outline of planned military reforms. According to him they will include personnel cuts down to 1.2 million next year, consolidating the strategic rocket and air forces, streamlining central management and cutting down the number of military districts.

President Boris Yeltsin, who has called for a slimmer and more professional army, said earlier today that reorganising the military was Russia's top priority this year.

In a nationwide radio address, Yeltsin also said the past year was the most difficult of his life but gave brighter prospects for Russia's future. The radio address marked the first anniversary of Yeltsin re-election.