Russian army ends purchase of Kalashnikov rifles

A man poses with a Kalashnikov rifle seized in Northern Ireland, 1999 The Kalashnikov is one of the world's most recognisable guns

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The Russian army says it is halting orders of the famous Kalashnikov assault rifle until a newer model is developed by its manufacturer.

Chief of the General Staff Nikolai Makarov told Russian media that the army already had too many of the weapons in its stores.

A new model is expected to be ready by the end of the year.

News of the army's decision is reportedly being kept from the rifle's designer, Mikhail Kalashnikov, now 91.

"We do not want to take it upon ourselves to tell him," an unnamed member of his family told Russia's Izvestia newspaper.

"It might kill him."

'Too many'

The Kalashnikov, instantly recognisable, renowned for its ruggedness and regarded by some as a design classic, is said to be the world's most heavily produced rifle.

In service in Russia since the 1940s, it has been copied by manufacturers across the world.

It has gone through several versions, from the original AK-47 - the AK stands for "Kalashnikov automatic" - to the AKM and latterly, the AK-74.

Gen Makarov said stocks of the rifle exceeded the army's needs "several times over".

A spokesman for the rifle's developer, the Izhmash plant in central Russia, told Izvestia newspaper that a new model would be ready for demonstration by the end of the year.

The plant would seek to increase exports and step up hunting rifle production in the meantime, the representative added.

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