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    IN 2004, ABOUT 16,000 PEOPLE IN RUSSIA WILL SERVE IN THE ARMY UNDER CONTRACT

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    MOSCOW, February 20 (RIA Novosti) - During 2004, 15,700 people will be called up to serve under contract as soldiers and sergeants, RIA Novosti was told in the press service of the Russian Defense Ministry. The expenditures for this purpose amount to 9.7 billion rubles.

    This call-up is carried out in accordance with the federal targeted program for the transition to a contract military service, scheduled for 2004-2007, a press service spokesman said.

    "By 2008, 147,000 soldiers and sergeants in the Russian army will serve under contract. Altogether, 80 formations and military units of constant readiness will be transferred to a contract system." According to the data of the press service, the total number of servicemen in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation amounted to 1,132,000 as of January 1, 2004. "This figure corresponds to the optimum level of defense sufficiency. This situation makes it possible for us to speak of the completion of the most complicated and large-scale transformations in the Army and Navy and concentrate our attention on daily training and on raising the fighting efficiency of the troops," says the spokesman of the Russian Defense Ministry's press service.

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