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Russia to axe top military personnel over lack of skills

MOSCOW, April 28 (RIA Novosti) - A large number of senior Russian military officials are to be discharged over a failure to pass an aptitude test, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolai Pankov said on Tuesday.

"We are not going to keep officers who are not fit for their positions," Gen. Pankov told journalists, as reports indicated around one-fifth of officers had failed the military aptitude test.

"The Defense Ministry took a decision to carry out unplanned tests among officers and NCOs. A considerable number of senior officers have proved inapt and will be dismissed from the Armed Forces," he added.

Pankov said 85% of senior military officials had taken the test so far. He said 50 generals and other people occupying senior positions would be dismissed from the Armed Forces. He also said 133 officials would be reshuffled.

The Defense Ministry plans to cut 130,000 Armed Forces personnel, bringing numbers down to 1 million by 2016 as part of a military reform launched under former president and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

The Soviet Armed Forces amounted to 4.5 million personnel in the late 1980s.

Experts have warned the move could undermine the Army's capabilities, with some saying 1 million personnel were not enough to protect Russia's vast territories. Experts also claim that changes proposed under the reform lack clarity and appropriate financing.

The ministry has pledged to provide housing to those military personnel due to be made redundant.