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Lukashenka's Longtime Defense Chief Out In Belarus

MINSK -- Belarusian Defense Minister Yury Zhadobin has resigned in a move observers said could be part of an attempt by President Alyaksandr Lukashenka to improve the military's combat-readiness.

Media reports in Belarus on November 25 cited Lukashenka's press service as saying that the 60-year-old general had decided to retire because of his age.

A Minsk-based military analyst, Alyaksandr Alesin, told RFE/RL that Zhadobin's departure reflects the need for army reform in a country whose southern neighbor, Ukraine, has seen rebels with Russian support seize swaths of terriroty in a conflict that has killed more than 4,100 people.

"The example of Ukraine has shown us that the army has to be quickly reformed and totally modernized, otherwise it may turn out to be completely incapable when its actions are urgently needed," Alesin said.

Belarus is Russia's closest ally, but Lukashenka has issued veiled warnings to Russia not to violate its sovereignty.

Zhadobin had been defense chief since December 2009. Before that he led the country's KGB securoty service.

With reporting by Belapan and BelTA
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