Putin dismisses Russian defense minister after scandal
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly dismissed his defense minister on Tuesday after a multi-million dollar corruption scandal and appointed a longtime ally to oversee military reforms.
Putin announced on television that he had fired Anatoly Serdyukov, who had become a liability due to an investigation into the sale of ministry assets at suspiciously low prices.
Serdyukov's replacement in a job which had been long eyed by rivals, former emergencies minister Sergei Shoigu, is untainted by corruption and popular among Russians. Shoigu has also proved immensely loyal and shown few signs of political ambitions in nearly two decades in senior posts.
Putin's announcement made at a meeting with Shoigu appeared designed to show he will crack down on high-level corruption in his new, six-year presidential term.
"Taking into consideration the situation around the Defense Ministry, in order to create conditions for an objective investigation into all matters, I have decided to free Defense Minister Serdyukov of his post," Putin said, sitting across the table from Shoigu at a state residence outside Moscow.
The defense minister wields immense power in Russia, channeling billions of dollars every year through the country's powerful defense industry, the second largest arms exporter in the world. Putin has promised to spend 23 trillion roubles ($726.30 billion) on the military by the end of the decade.
Putin said at the televised meeting that the new minister must continue "grandiose plans for the reform of the army".
Russian investigators raided the offices of Defense Ministry firm Oboronservis last month and opened an investigation into the company on suspicion that it had sold assets to commercial firms at a loss of nearly $100 million. Continued...