Russian army halts Kalashnikov orders: general

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The Russian army is flooded with Kalashnikovs and is halting its orders until the assault rifle's developers come up with a new model, the country's top general said on Tuesday.

The AK-74 -- a 1974 model that succeeded the famous AK-47 whose name instilled dread among US troops fighting in the 1960s in Vietnam -- was developed by the brand's originator Mikhail Kalashnikov.

But Russia's Chief of the General Staff Nikolai Makarov said the army decided not to purchase any more of the outdated weapons this year because "its supply exceeds demand by a factor of 10."

The rifle's Izhevsk plant in central Russia expects to issue a new model next year, but the defence ministry has already decided against making new Kalashnikov purchases until 2014 at the earliest, the Izvestia daily reported.

It added that the decision is not being disclosed to the rifle's world-renowned designer, who is 91, out of fears for his health.

"We do not want to tell him and then have it it on our conscience. He might not recover," the paper quoted an unnamed friend of Kalashnikov as saying.

The AK-47 and its more modern versions are the weapons of choice for dozens of armies and guerrilla groups around the world.

More than 100 million Kalashnikov rifles have been sold worldwide and they are wielded by fighters in such far-flung conflict zones as Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Kalashnikov is considered a national hero in Russia and was congratulated personally by President Dmitry Medvedev on his 90th birthday in 2009.

© 2011 AFP

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