Russia's Putin fires top general after graft scandal

Fri Nov 9, 2012 9:45am EST
 
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By Timothy Heritage

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin replaced the chief of his military staff on Friday in a reshuffle that stamped the authority of the Kremlin chief, and his new defense minister, on the armed forces after a corruption scandal.

Putin removed General Nikolai Makarov after four years as the nuclear power's top general and replaced him with General Valery Gerasimov, 57, a commander who fought Muslim separatists in the Chechnya region.

Changes had been expected to allow new Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to bring in his own team after replacing Anatoly Serdyukov, sacked on Tuesday after an investigation began into suspicious sales of ministry property to insiders.

Putin told Gerasimov to press on with reforms to modernize the armed forces and, hinting at tensions that had mounted under Serdyukov's stewardship, the president told him to improve relations with the defense industry.

"I hope very much that you and the minister will be able to build a good and stable relationship with our leading enterprises in the defense ministry," Putin said during a televised meeting with Gerasimov and Shoigu.

Referring indirectly to Serdyukov's poor ties with industry chiefs he had chided for not developing better weapons, Putin said: "We have recently run into changing demands of the defense industry from the Defense Ministry. Of course we must strive to have cutting edge items, but we need a certain stability too."

Gerasimov, deputy chief of the general staff since 2010, was also appointed first deputy defense minister. Putin also named Arkady Bakhin, commander of Russia's western military district, as another first deputy defense minister.

SHOIGU STAMPS AUTHORITY   Continued...

 
Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) speaks with newly appointed armed forces Chief-of-Staff Valery Gerasimov (L) and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu during their meeting in Moscow's Kremlin November 9, 2012. REUTERS/Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Pool