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    Russian missile chief's dismissal 'not politically motivated'

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    The recent dismissal of Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov as commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) was not politically motivated, a former SMF chief of staff said on Tuesday.

    MOSCOW, August 4 (RIA Novosti) - The recent dismissal of Col. Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov as commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) was not politically motivated, a former SMF chief of staff said on Tuesday.

    Solovtsov, who turned 60 in December 2008, was discharged on Monday from military service upon reaching the mandatory retirement age.

    However, some media outlets have linked his dismissal to a series of embarrassing failed test-launches of the Bulava ballistic missile, as well as disagreements over talks on a new strategic arms reduction treaty with the United States.

    "All these links are mere speculations. It was his personal decision. He wrote a resignation request on July 15 and left on vacation," said Col. Gen. Viktor Yesin (Ret.), who served as chief of staff of the Russian Strategic Missile Forces in 1991-93.

    Yesin, who until recently worked as an adviser to the SMF commander, said Solovtsov himself proposed the candidacy of his deputy, Col. Gen. Andrei Shvaichenko, as his replacement. Shvaichenko, 56, has served as deputy SMF commander and SMF chief of staff since 2001.

    According to Yesin, Solovtsov's insistence that Russia must not go below 1,500 warheads in a new strategic arms reduction deal with the United States fully reflected the Kremlin's standpoint on the issue.

    At their summit last month, presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama called for a reduction in the number of nuclear warheads to 1,500-1,675 within seven years.

    The analyst also said he doubted that Solovtsov could replace Yury Solomonov as head of the Moscow-based Institute of Thermal Technology (MITT), the developer of the troubled Bulava sea-launched ballistic missile.

    The missile has suffered six failures in 11 tests, and Solomonov resigned in July over what is believed to be a serious setback in the development of Russia's nuclear deterrent.

    "It is unlikely that Solovtsov would agree to head the MITT because it is a very stressful job with a lot of pressure," Yesin said.

    The Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos) earlier said the new MITT head will be chosen by a special commission from a list of suitable candidacies in September.

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