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Defence Minister dismissed after corruption scandal

November 07, 2012, 11:21 UTC+3

Experts say, this way the Kremlin is trying to stabilise the situation in the society and in the elites

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The major topic in media is the dismissal of Defence Minister Anatoly Serdukov and appointment to the position of the Moscow region’s Governor Sergei Shoigu. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin dismissed Serdukov on Tuesday and explained it by the necessity of an objective investigation of the cases in the defence ministry. Experts say, this way the Kremlin is trying to stabilise the situation in the society and in the elites.

The Novye Izvestia writes that the reason for Serdukov’s dismissal was the case of Oboronservis. In October, the Investigative Committee opened five criminal cases on “swindle, abuse of power,” having suspected officials of selling property of Oboronservis for low prices. They claimed the officials of the Defence Ministry chose most attractive and expensive facilities and shares, and by selling those the damage to the state exceeded three billion roubles.

It was a ‘straight off’ dismissal, the Vedomosti reports. “The preparations were made in a hurry, and in the afternoon on Tuesday the meeting with Shoigu postponed the meeting on physical culture and sports,” an anonymous official at the Kremlin told the newspaper.

The newspaper’s experts say the reason for the dismissal is far from the criminal cases on theft over selling of real estate in the Defence Ministry’s Oboronservis. The reason is that the minister had been told not to protect the figurants, but he would not obey, and “this is why he was dismissed.”

Experts say that while Serdukov was in the position of the minister, the armed forces had changed cardinally. Director of the Centre for Analysis of Strategies and Technologies Ruslan Pukhov speaks about reduction of the staff, changes of the staff organisation, he also mentions growth of wages by five times, and the beginning of mass re-armament. “Formerly, the Russian Armed Forces were a small copy of the Soviet Army formed on mobilisation; Serdukov broke the model and made irreversible steps towards a new army, which is combat-ready in peaceful time, not after a general mobilisation,” Pukhov said.

The official Rossiiskaya Gazeta writes that the dismissal was out of the blue skies, but it has not been good news for some military. Those opposing reforms by Serdukov have always been numerous at the ministry. Those who feared to claim the minister in his position, now may attack the dismissed official, the newspaper writes.

The Kommersant’s sources at the Kremlin say the political decision about Anatoly Serdukov’s dismissal had been made back in early September. “The president and the prime minister had been unhappy for a long time, however it did not bring to open conflicts,” the newspaper’s source said. “There were enough reasons for a dismissal even without the case of Oboronservis. First of all, despite Anatoly Serdukov’s promise to fulfil precisely the state defence order both in 2011 and in 2012, Vladimir Putin had to interfere both times with the process of making contracts. Secondly, orders from Vladimir Putin, while the prime minister, before the presidential election in March of 2012, he failed to settle the problem of housing for the military. “It became clear that Serdukov’s failures are projected directly on Vladimir Putin,” the Kremlin’s official said.

The military observer at the Komsomolskaya Pravda writes there was “a bunch of reasons” for the dismissal. The final was the scandalous corruption story with Oboronservis, where Serdukov had been chairman of the board of directors for several years. Besides, lately Serdukov joined the dangerous confrontation with controlling and law enforcement authorities, as well as with several “heavy- weight” figures in the government.

End of the defence minister’s career became another proof of truly Byzantine character of the Russian policy, the Moskovsky Komsomolets reports. The society is practically unaware of the true reasons for firing Serdukov, the newspaper writes.

The newly appointed minister, the Moscow region’s governor until Tuesday, Sergei Shoigu first of all will get rid of his predecessor’s prot·g·s, the RBC daily writes. At risk are “Serdukov’s ladies” – over the time of the military reform they were appointed to almost every third high-ranking position at the Defence Ministry.

Anatoly Serdukov was appointed Defence Minister in February of 2007, the newspaper writes. He was ordered to have a major reform of the military authority. The armed units met practically all his decisions with misunderstanding, but this would not stop the minister, who had only served in the Army. Those disagreeing were fired, and some generals even committed suicides.

President Vladimir Putin provided support to Serdukov, thus the minister ignored the generals’ Fronde. Serdukov introduced in the Armed Forces the Forces a brigade principle instead of divisions and regiments, he began the practice of foreign purchases of weapons and equipment, introduced the system of outsourcing. So, all the washing, feed and clean up services for soldiers became responsibilities of that very Oboronservis, about activities of which the investigators had serious complaints.

As Shoigu comes to the Defence Ministry, as major leaning will start there. First of all fired would be “Serdukov’s ladies”, the newspaper’s sources familiar with the situation say. For example, now the military education is the responsibility of Ekaterina Priyezzhaeva, which had been responsible for a long time at St. Petersburg’s Mayor’s Office for turnover of alcoholic beverages. A deputy minister is Tatyana Shevtsova, which had been changing positions strictly following Ex-Minister Serdukov. As Serdukov became the minister, about every third high-ranking position was given to a young lady.


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