Putin says before poll Russia needs stronger army

MOSCOW - Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on Monday Russia needed a stronger military to protect it from foreign attempts to stoke conflicts around its borders.
In a newspaper article intended to burnish his image as a strong leader before a presidential election, Putin said Russia would spend 23 trillion rubles ($768.46 billion) over a decade to modernize the former superpower's armed forces.
"New regional and local wars are being sparked before our very eyes," Putin wrote in the article published on the front page of Russia's official gazette, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, two weeks before the March 4 election in which he is a candidate.
"There are attempts to provoke such conflicts in the immediate vicinity of the borders of Russia and our allies," he wrote.