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    FRADKOV TO RAISE DEFENSE SPENDING

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    MOSCOW, March 5, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent) - The new government intends to concentrate on the army reform and the country's defense.

    "Defense spending should be increased steeply to provide for a decent living for the servicemen," said Russian prime minister nominee Mikhail Fradkov in his address to the Duma today.

    Provision of the armed forces is a priority of the new government, said Mr. Fradkov.

    "The consolidation of the country's defense capacity is another priority. It is small secret that the state defense order amounted to 150 billion rubles ($1 equals about 29 rubles) in 2004, which is 20% more than last year," said Mr. Fradkov. This does not solve all the problems of course, but the main thing is that there is such a trend. Proposals are now being drafted on the armament program up to 2015. National defense capacity will in this case be tied to a technological breakthrough."

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