DATE=7/25/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA MILITARY (L ONLY) NUMBER=2-264776 BYLINE=PETER HEINLEIN DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: Russian President Vladimir Putin has told a group of senior military officers that rebuilding the country's defenses will be among his top priorities. But as V-O-A's Peter Heinlein reports from Moscow, Mr. Putin dismissed speculation that he might merge Russia's security services into a big Soviet-style police agency. TEXT: At a Kremlin ceremony Tuesday, President Putin said he believes Russia's military might is the key to peace and stability. /// PUTIN ACT ONE - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He says, "the military factor is foremost in maintaining stability in the nation and providing peaceful, progressive development." Mr. Putin's speech to a group of officers about to take up new assignments comes at a time of deep disagreement within the military. One faction, led by Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev, believes Russia must make up for the weakness of its conventional forces by maintaining a strong nuclear deterrent. An opposing faction, led by Chief of Staff General Anatoly Kvashnin, argues that the country must build up its conventional capability at a time when troops are fighting a war in Chechnya. Russia's armed forces have staunchly supported Mr. Putin, who in turn has solidly backed the war effort in Chechnya. But military analysts say that despite the Russian leader's strong statements, the budget crunch means there is likely to be little money available for any substantial improvement in military capability. Mr. Putin also used his speech to dismiss widespread rumors that he wants to merge Russia's various state security services into a single K-G-B-style agency. His past as a Soviet K-G-B agent, and as head of one of the K-G-B's successor agencies, had given rise to speculation he wanted to recreate the old system. But he told the assembled officers such a plan is out of the question. /// PUTIN ACT TWO - IN RUSSIAN - FADE UNDER /// He says, "You are all experienced generals and officers. You remember how the K-G-B operated. It was both easier and more difficult to work within one system." But, he said the current security setup, which he called "a community of special services," is more effective. He added, "we need to put an end to rumors of mergers and creating a super-system. We do not need anything like that." In his speech, Mr. Putin praised the work of the armed forces, but appeared critical of the Interior Ministry. He charged the police agency with doing a poor job of fighting organized crime and corruption, and said he had discussed a re-organization plan with Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo. Mr. Putin publicly reprimanded both Mr. Rushailo and Defense Minister Sergeyev earlier this month after a wave of suicide bombings in Chechnya that killed more than 50 people. Most of the Russian troops fighting in Chechnya are with the Interior Ministry. (Signed) NEB/PFH/JWH/JP 25-Jul-2000 10:26 AM LOC (25-Jul-2000 1426 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .