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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Switch to Volunteer Army Approved

ReutersPresident Vladimir Putin meeting with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov and other Defense Ministry officials on Wednesday.
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday approved the Defense Ministry's plan to switch the core of the armed forces to volunteers during the next four years, and the military announced a wage hike for contract soldiers.

During a meeting with top military brass, Putin endorsed the plan that envisages hiring some 167,000 volunteers between Jan. 1, 2004, and the end of 2007 to fully staff the best, high-readiness military units, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said.

In brief televised remarks, Putin urged the military to quickly finalize the plan so that the Cabinet could approve it by June and include corresponding funding in next year's government budget.

Putin has long urged gradually phasing out conscription and forming a leaner contract military by around 2010, but Ivanov -- who has faced anger among top brass over the cuts and the cost and speed of the planned transition -- said last fall that the transfer would not be total and that "conscription will remain forever" to prepare reservists. In September, the Defense Ministry started a pilot project to fully switch the Pskov Airborne Division to volunteers, intending to set an example for the rest of the military.

"The experiment should be over by the year's end, and we will have the first airborne division fully staffed by contract soldiers," Ivanov said Wednesday on Rossia television.

Ivanov also said it had been decided to increase a volunteer's minimum monthly pay to 5,280 rubles ($168) starting March 1.

The wage hike only applies to the Pskov division, and makes a Pskov soldier's pay roughly equal to that of a lieutenant elsewhere in the military.