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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Baturin: Size of Military Unknown

Russia's vast army is in such a chaotic state that not even its leaders who are poised to carry out military reform have a clear idea of how big it is, a top Kremlin official said in an interview published Tuesday.


"At the moment, no one can say how many people we have on active military service," Yury Baturin, the secretary of President Boris Yeltsin's Defense Council, told Itogi weekly.


The London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies says Russia has 1.27 million active members in the armed forces, with 20 million in reserve. But Baturin thinks the figure for active servicemen may be much bigger.


"Speaking roughly, and rounding the figure to hundreds of thousands, we are talking about 2.5 million servicemen as the current power of the Defense Ministry," he said.


Baturin said his estimate included "ghost" troops and military installations which did not figure in the national military budget -- a leftover from the Cold War era when details of the Soviet war machine were cloaked in secrecy.


Even in the post-Soviet period, the Russian armed forces rank as one of the biggest military forces in the world with only China and the United States comparable in manpower.


The size of the armed forces and the deployment of units, whose duties frequently overlap across the vast Russian Federation, are central to plans for military reform. Yeltsin, who is preparing for heart surgery, set up the Defense Council comprising top state officials to kick-start long-awaited reform and tackle a bitter financial crisis in the armed forces.


Defense Minister Igor Rodionov has said the cash-strapped and poorly equipped armed forces are on the brink of collapse and has called for a boost in military spendings. During his re-election campaign last summer Yeltsin ordered military reforms to be undertaken.


Rodionov wants reductions in army personnel to go along with cuts in military forces controlled by the Interior Ministry, Federal Security Service, border guards and others.


Baturin said the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic crisis were the main reason behind the army's problems. "Russia took over some 85 percent of the Soviet Union's armed forces and only 65 percent of its economic potential," he said. "This has caused a gap which is widening every year."