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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Scolds the Military

President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday ordered the military's top brass to prevent the siphoning-off of government funds, while Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov acknowledged that only a fraction of the conventional forces were combat-ready.

Putin conceded that military wages remain low despite the Cabinet's decision this year to double them and promised to continue increasing servicemen's salaries. At the same time, he sternly warned the Defense Ministry to keep a closer eye on its finances.

"It's your responsibility to end abuses and make all the spending fully transparent," Putin said in a speech to top generals, parts of which were broadcast on television. "Regrettably, quite often the Defense Ministry itself doesn't know where the government money is going."

Ivanov gave a somber assessment of the army's capability. "The strategic nuclear forces provide guaranteed nuclear deterrence from aggression against Russia at a minimum sufficient level," the Interfax-Military News Agency quoted him as saying. "Only some general-purpose formations and units are capable of fulfilling their tasks in full."

He said the military would have 1.126 million servicemen by year's end, down from 1.274 million troops Jan. 1, a 12 percent cut. The army now has 130,000 contract soldiers, according to official data.

Ivanov said that excluding deaths in battle, 531 servicemen have died on duty this year because of accidents and crimes and 20,000 more had been injured.

The Soldiers' Mothers Committee said noncombat deaths were much higher, about 2,000 a year.