Russia to increase arms spending in 2011 by half

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Russia will increase by half the amount it spends on modernising and re-arming its ailing military in 2011 compared to last year, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told defence and finance officials.

About 750 billion roubles ($27.20 billion) will be spent this year on purchasing arms, defence-related research and development work, Putin said. “We have never allocated an amount like this in Russia for one year,” he said on state TV.

The rise comes after a probe ordered this month by President Dmitry Medvedev into comments by top weapons designer Yuri Solomonov, who said 2011’s procurement plan was botched and that weapons makers were failing to produce enough nuclear missiles, Reuters reports.

Russia’s armed forces have demanded an increase in spending to modernise ageing infrastructure and weapons systems after years of insufficient funding.

Putin said in December Russia would spend 20 trillion roubles ($725.4 billion) on rearming Russia, also the world’s No. 2 arms exporter, through 2020.

Low morale and poor living conditions 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union have dogged plans to reform the armed forces. While Russia beat Georgia in a five-day war in 2008, the conflict exposed technical problems and ageing equipment.

Highlighting increasing concern over its decrepit arms industry, Medvedev urged the military earlier this month to buy weapons from abroad to ensure they are properly armed.