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MOSCOW, November 29. /ITAR-TASS World Service/. The Russian media discuss the news about a criminal case opened Thursday against former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdukov. Before that, he was a witness in the case on embezzlement in the defense authority. Now he is a suspect.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes about various reactions from the expert community. Most sources say the aim of the criminal proceedings against Serdukov is to calm down the public opinion.
Russia’s Investigative Committee reports Serdukov is charged with negligence, as “in the oral form he ordered his staff to build at the expense of the ministry a car road” worth over 56 million rubles to a private real estate object. A criminal case against unidentified persons at the defense ministry on construction of the road was opened in January of the current year. Now it becomes clear that former defense minister is the so-called unidentified person. At the same time, the Investigative Committee charges Serdukov only with “negligence,” not “abuse of the power.”
Head of the All-Russian trade union of the military Oleg Shvedkov told the newspaper the private estate was owned by Serdukov’s relative. “The minister used to build the road to the estate, to plant trees there. What negligence is there? This is a clear abuse of the power, where following an oral order from the minister, the military misused even battalions of soldiers.”
Head of the Investigative Committee said on Thursday “the final qualification of the illegal actions undertaken by Serdukov is due following the criminal case’s investigation.”
Many experts doubt it. Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov says prosecution of Serdukov was a response to the public opinion, to the critical moods expressed by the political elite and the media regarding his actions. “He should be prosecuted for the detriment of the county’s defense,” he said. “However, I doubt it may happen.” General of the Army Yuri Baluyevsky explains the new criminal case against Serdukov by the “tension in the society, which has reached an apogee.” The general does not believe there will be “large-scale criminal proceedings” against the former minister.
Political analyst Gleb Pavlovsky said: “The prosecution claims Serdukov is responsible for having failed the enormous growth of corruption at the defense ministry, but he personally is not guilty.”
Kommersant daily’s sources say Serdukov’s criminal story does not have future, as negligence under the Criminal Code is not punished by real prison term. The worst punishment here may be an arrest for three months or correctional labor, and if it comes to the best, he may even pay a fee equal to his salary.
Lawyer Anton Matushenko of Knyazev and Partners stresses Serdukov’s actions may be classified, should there be a desire, as “fraud,” "misappropriation or embezzlement", "causing damage to property by fraud or breach of trust", "misappropriation of budget funds." All those articles imply imprisonment as punishment, RBC daily quotes the lawyer as saying.
Head of the centre for fighting corruption at authorities Viktor Kostromin told Novye Izvestia daily: “The higher echelons of the power have not made a final decision on the former minster. If Serdukov is sentenced for a real term, we shall witness many more high-profile cases.
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