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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Pledges More Money for Defense

In a move aimed at supporting ailing defense industries and restoring Russia's military might, acting President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that the government would buy 50 percent more weapons this year.

The announcement signaled the government's intention to fulfill its long-held promises to begin modernizing the nation's aging arsenals. The government has been promising for years to increase defense spending, but the military received almost no new equipment during the past decade.

"The army has been underfinanced for several years, which has entailed negative consequences for the nation's defense potential," Putin said. "It has raised doubts about the very possibility for Russia to have a modern army equipped with state-of-the art weapons."

Speaking at a Cabinet session that was discussing orders for new weapons, Putin said the boost in purchases was part of a planned effort to revive defense industries and was not directly linked with the war in Chechnya.

The government's defense spending this year has been set at 146.35 billion rubles, $5.1 billion, making it the second-largest budget item following debt servicing. The planned military spending has risen over last year's, but its dollar value has remained virtually unchanged because of the ruble's steady decline.

Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, who is in charge of defense industries, said after the Cabinet session that the increase in spending on some categories of weapons could be as high as 80 percent in comparison with 1999, Itar-Tass reported.

Financing of research and development for new weapons would be also increased by 80 percent, he said.

Klebanov, speaking at a news conference, wouldn't provide specific figures, saying they were confidential.

The fact that the military received almost no new weapons during the 1990s cast doubt on the latest government promises. A 50 percent spending hike could mean very little in the way of actual hardware.

The government will concentrate resources in several key sectors, including radio and communications, individual protection equipment and night-vision devices for the ground forces.

"We have developed a special program to equip everything that runs, swims or flies with night-vision devices to make the hardware fit for round-the-clock action," Klebanov said.

Throughout the war in Chechnya, soldiers have lamented that they lacked such equipment as night-vision goggles, portable radios and special footwear to help protect them from mine explosions.