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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ivanov Says Military Has Shrunk by 14%

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Monday that the armed forces number slightly more than 1.1 million -- a drop of about 14 percent compared to the number he gave at the beginning of the year.

Ivanov said the military now has "a little over" 1.1 million personnel, the Interfax-Military News Agency reported. Previously, Ivanov said the Defense Ministry had 1,274,000 servicemen as of Jan. 1.

Ivanov said there could be further cuts, but he gave no specific figures.

"Nobody disputes the possibility of the reduction of the armed forces if the international situation and, more importantly, a higher standard of the army and navy, their technical supplies, resources and so on permit it," Ivanov was quoted as saying.

Ivanov said he would report to the Cabinet on Thursday on the military's concept for the gradual transition from conscription to contract service. "The transition to a contract military will be largely determined by the economic potential of the state," Ivanov said.

President Vladimir Putin has approved a plan to phase out the unpopular draft and switch to an all-volunteer military around 2010, but top army brass has warned that the transition could be too costly.

The Defense Ministry launched a pilot project in September to transfer the 76th Airborne Division in the northwestern city of Pskov to full staffing by professional soldiers, saying the experiment would help determine when the country could afford a fully contract military.

The experiment has been mired in controversy, with liberal critics of the draft accusing top generals of trying to sabotage the project. Ivanov dismissed such claims. "No one doubts that we should take this path," he said. "They say that the generals are against it, but it's not so. The officer corps understands quite well that if we don't start doing it now, the more we drag it out, the worse it will be for the army and the officer corps itself."