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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

News in Brief

Military Reform

MOSCOW (AP) -- A senior military official said Wednesday that despite President Vladimir Putin's ambitious-sounding plan to switch to a mostly professional army, half the nation's soldiers would be still be conscripts.

"If all goes well, almost half of soldiers and sergeants" will be serving on contract by 2008, the end of the first phase of the military reform, said Lieutenant General Viktor Storonin, head of the Defense Ministry's department of military analysis.

The statement appeared to reflect further backpedaling from Putin's initial pledge to introduce an all-volunteer military by 2010.

Storonin told reporters that the military reform would cost some 84 billion rubles ($2.8 billion) over the next four years. About 80 percent of the money will be invested in the construction of housing, training facilities and other infrastructure, while the rest will go mostly to salaries, he said.

General Charged

MOSCOW (AP) -- Prosecutors on Wednesday charged the general in charge of the Emergency Situation Ministry's security department with organized crime and extortion.

Lieutenant General Vladimir Ganeyev entered an innocent plea in his arraignment at Lefortovo prison, where he has been held since his June 23 arrest, Interfax reported. He also faces charges of abuse of office and involvement in illegal transactions with precious minerals.

The other six senior officers implicated with Ganeyev were also charged with organized crime. Other charges ranged from abuse of power to illegal possession of weapons and drugs.

China Border Opened

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia has ordered its borders with China and Mongolia reopened that had been closed due to worries about the spread of SARS, the government said Wednesday.

Nine checkpoints with China and 20 with Mongolia will be reopened under the government order.

Only one person in Russia had been officially diagnosed with severe acute respiratory syndrome. Denis Soinikov, who was hospitalized in a city on the Chinese border in May, was released last month.