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MOSCOW, May 21. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s former defense minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, who lost his post as a result of a high-profile corruption row and at a certain point was even charged with a related offense only to be acquitted shortly afterwards, is in the focus of public attention again. The Communist faction in the State Duma has launched a sign-up campaign in support of a motion for putting to the vote the question of launching another parliamentary probe into Serdyukov’s abuse, the daily Izvestia said.
In their message to the State Duma speaker, the Communists mention eight episodes that, in their opinion, leave no chance for applying amnesty to Serdyukov. In particular, the legislators point to the abuse of power, sale of the Defense Ministry’s real estate at unduly low prices, and illegal leasing of forest areas and motor vehicles.
At the end of last year, the Communist faction launched the first attempt to start a parliamentary inquiry into Serdyukov’s activity. However, on February 26 the lower house of parliament dismissed the proposal because it said the former high-ranking official was already being investigated for negligence.
In early March, though, the media broke the news Serdyukov had been amnestied back at the beginning of this year on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Russian Constitution. The Communists have now decided to make another try. “The episodes that we put the emphasis on have not been investigated or given proper legal assessment. We maintain that there are several cases of abuse of office to which the amnesty does not apply,” says the chief of the Communist Party’s law department Vadim Solovyov.
Although many legislators and senators share the Communists’ critical attitude to the former defense minister, this initiative has very slim chances to succeed. A member of the United Russia General Council’s Presidium, Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee for Constitutional Legislation, Vladimir Pligin, has said that he does not support it. His party, it should be remembered, has an absolute majority of votes in the State Duma.
Anatoly Serdyukov held the post of Russia’s defense minister in 2007-2012. He was dismissed after a row over the Rosoboronservis company responsible for providing logistics services for the Russian armed forces. The company’s top management was found guilty of financial fraud. At first Serdyukov was involved in the case only as a witness, but a while later he faced negligence charges and a punishment not involving imprisonment. Many reacted to the institution of criminal proceedings as evidence of the authorities’ determination to take the case to a logical outcome. But the former defense minister was amnestied. The news sparked criticism from society. The public was particularly angry because one of the reasons for Serdyukov’s amnesty was his status of “Defender of the Motherland.”
The Communists disagreed with this kind of attitude. “Serdyukov has never been on a battlefield, he has never commanded frontline troops and his life has never been in danger,” says Communist legislator Valery Rashkin. During the hostilities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia the former defense minister has never left his office, so there is no reason for considering him “Defender of the Motherland.”
“A real prison term for Serdyukov would be a rather harsh precedent,” says the general director of the International Institute for Political Expertise, Yevgeny Minchenko. “Sending a former defense minister (to prison) who had had access to state secrets would be rather risky. National security considerations should also be taken into account," he added.
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