Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov approved the Defense Ministry's draft program to partially staff the 76th Pskov Airborne Division with "contract" soldiers on 27 June. On 1 September 2002, the federal targeted program will begin the study of the possibility of completely transferring the Russian Army from the draft to an all-volunteer contract system of recruitment. According to the Defense Ministry's plans, this entirely new army is due to be created by 2013 although a full-fledged 'professional' contract can be ready by 2003 at the earliest.
General Staff main mobilization department and deputy chief-of-staff of the Russian Armed Forces Colonel General Vladislav Putilin also told the press that the Pskov division will be a 'unit of reference', that serves as a starting point to enable the Russians to determine the cost of the transfer of each specific division to a contract. The overall annual cost of a professional army was estimated to cost of almost $6.345 billion (R200 billion).
Putlinin also noted that one of the 76th Airborne Division' regiments will be tested in a "hot spot", as part of the program of draft-to-contract transition. All the paratroopers will undergo a new training course, including an advanced program of combat and airborne training. Putilin noted that it was necessary to check the capabilities of the regiment's contract personnel in combat environment, as well as the new combat and combat support detachments TO&Es. The efficiency of these courses can only be proven in combat, but Putilin declined to specify the hot spot. Although Chechnya is the most likely arena for this experiment, Putilin suggested that the regiment might be dispatched to another area where Russian troops are operating in a hostile environment.
Russian Airborne Troops commander Colonel General Georgiy Shpak told journalists on 17 June that the 200,000 Russian Airborne Troops will form the basis of the Kremlin's new mobile forces, but that it will take five years to complete their formation. Russia's mobile forces will be designed to be used for local military conflicts and to ward off an external threat of the use of force, but there is a long road to travel before they're ready to fight. Russian Military Transport Aviation has the capability to airlift one reinforced parachute assault regiment to remote areas, but it takes two MAT flights to deploy a two-regiment division. When threats arise, the Russian government may decide to transport paratroops to remote areas by civilian aviation aircraft. - Adam Geibel