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Russian elite force numbers dwindling

Oct. 24, 2013 at 9:55 AM

MOSCOW, Oct. 24 (UPI) -- A high-ranking military official in Russia said Thursday cutting down the number of solders serving in elite forces was a strategic mistake.

Russian elite forces, serving as part of the Chief Intelligence Directorate, marked Thursday as their 63rd anniversary. Former force commander Lt. Gen. Dmitry Gerasimov told state news agency RIA Novosti the decision to downgrade the force in 2009-10 was a strategic error.

"I'm sure the downsizing was wrong," he said. "The number of high-level professionals was reduced and training programs were cut to the minimum."

Former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, a former elite commander who mandated the cuts, was fired in November and replaced by Sergei Shoigu. The shakeup was part of a string of reforms enacted by the Kremlin to address corruption in the Russian defense sector.

Transparency International in 2012 gave Russia a score of 28 on a scale of 0-100 where a score of zero means a country is perceived as highly corrupt.

A Russian government watchdog report said 70 percent of the 458 state contracts signed From July 1, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2012, violated procurement regulations. In July, the prosecutor general's office said there was a "high level" of bribery, forgery and abuse of power among members of the Russian armed forces. Corruption allegations extended to defense contractors.

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