Contract soldiers to man Russian tank units

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MOSCOW, September 9 (RIA Novosti) - Contract servicemen will start manning some Russian tank units in 2008, the press office of the Russian Land Forces said Friday.

According to the press office, two tank regiments and 16 tank battalions within mechanized infantry divisions, together with about 6,000-strong personnel, will switch to a contract basis.

Today contract soldiers account for more than 64% of personnel in tank units and formations that are on constant alert.

This year, a tank regiment and two tank battalions where contract soldiers account for more than 80% of personnel will switch to contract, the press release says.

The tank units and formations of the Russian ground forces operate different models of armor, including the ultra-modern T-90 main battle tank and modified versions of the T-72 and T-80 battle tanks.

In accordance with the Defense Ministry's plans, the Russian Armed Forces will have about 280,000 contract soldiers and sergeants by January 1, 2008, or 50% of the total personnel.

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