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Russian defence ministry rejects 'unacceptable' proposal to cut military staff

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia’s Defence Ministry on Tuesday said it had rejected a string of “unacceptable” austerity measures proposed by the Finance Ministry that would cut some 100,000 troops.

In a proposal submitted to the country’s security council this month, the Finance Ministry suggested slashing Russia’s military personnel by 10%, a figure that would amount to some 100,000 troops, the Izvestia newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Some of those military officers would be given civilian posts instead, according to the proposal.

The Defence Ministry said similar moves in the past had highlighted “inefficiency and led to numerous problematic issues affecting the combat capacity of the Armed Forces”.

It said it had sent its position to the security council “on the unacceptability of these proposals and the absence of support for them from the leadership of the military department”.

“The proposal by the finance ministry to reduce the number of (military) posts will have zero economic effect,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement carried by Krasnaya Zvezda, its official newspaper.

The Finance Ministry, which also proposed raising the number of years of service required to receive a military pension, did not respond to a request for comment.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that no decision had been made on the matter, the Interfax news agency reported.

In July, the Finance Ministry had proposed cutting state spending on the military by 5% between 2021 and 2023.

Military expenditures have increased during Vladimir Putin’s presidency, but the Kremlin said in 2018 that Russia would cut its defence budget to less than 3% of GDP within the next five years.

Russia last year was the world’s fourth-largest military spender, increasing its military expenditures by 4.5% to $65.1 billion from the previous year, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. That amount corresponded to 3.9% of its gross domestic product, it said.

Exact figures for military funding are considered a state secret in Russia.

Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; Additional reporting by Darya Korsunskaya; Editing by Angus MacSwan