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Originally published Wednesday, February 27, 2013 at 2:13 AM

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Putin calls for upgrade of Russian army

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on the country's top brass to deliver a drastic upgrade of the armed forces in the next three years to fend off attempts from abroad to "tip the strategic balance" in the world.

The Associated Press

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MOSCOW —

Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on the country's top brass to deliver a drastic upgrade of the armed forces in the next three years to fend off attempts from abroad to "tip the strategic balance" in the world.

In his address to Russia's defense ministry and top military officials, Putin said Wednesday that Russia is witnessing "insistent attempts" to tip the balance and complained about U.S. attempts to set up a new missile defense system, Russian news agencies reported.

"Geopolitical developments call for our response to be well-calculated and quick," the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying. "The Russian armed forces must move to a dramatically new level of capabilities as soon as in the next three to five years."

Putin blasted the legacy of former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov who was dismissed in November last year amid a corruption scandal involving billions of rubles reportedly embezzled by the ministry and affiliated firms.

While Putin linked the ouster to the corruption probe, most experts believe that Serdyukov was sacked because of an intensifying behind-the-scenes battle for the distribution of 230 trillion rubles ($750 billion) that the Kremlin plans to spend on buying new weapons through 2020.

Serdyukov demanded higher quality and cheaper prices from the military industry, often refusing to sign new contracts for months. He criticized arms makers for continuing to produce Soviet-era designs instead of developing new weapons, angering industry leaders with strong Kremlin connections.

Under Serdyukov, the military purchased amphibious assault vessels from France, bought Israeli drones, Italian armored vehicles and other foreign weapons.

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