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Russia Boosts Arms Spend To Replace Georgia Losses

Russian tanks in South Ossetia
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has said the government would allot an extra 80 billion rubles ($3.13 billion) next year to buy new weapons and partly offset Moscow's losses during a brief war in Georgia.

The figure gives a clue as to how much the August conflict may have cost Russia's budget coffers. Senior Russian officials had earlier ducked the question.

"The Caucasus events once again demonstrated the importance of our work on strengthening the combat-readiness of armed forces," Putin told a government meeting.

"It is envisaged to allot an additional 80 billion rubles to purchase new military equipment and weapons and to deploy our troops where we consider it expedient to do so.

"The talk is also about partial compensation of the losses caused by military actions in the Caucasus and...the purchase of new equipment. These losses must be offset capabilities of our defense industry."

Russia promptly waged a massive counterattack after Georgia tried to retake its rebel South Ossetia province by force. Russian troops quickly ousted Georgian forces from South Ossetia and occupied large chunks of Georgian land surrounding the region and another breakaway republic, Abkhazia.

Russian military officials put Moscow's human losses at around 70 dead. Materiel losses included several aircraft -- among them a sophisticated Tu-22M3 Backfire strategic bomber -- and an unspecified number of tanks and other vehicles.

The West rapped Moscow for what it saw as Russia's heavy-handed use of force. Moscow also irked the West by recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

Russia is to hand control of "security zones" around the two rebel regions to European Union monitors by October 10.