Putin sacks Russian defence minister amid scandal
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin fired Russia's defence minister over corruption allegations on Tuesday, the latest twist in an unfolding saga of power, money and suspected adultery at the heart of the Kremlin.
Putin announced on television that he had fired Anatoly Serdyukov, once seen as one of the president's most loyal courtiers but lately a liability amid allegations that the military sold off assets cheaply to insiders.
"Taking into consideration the situation around the Defence Ministry, in order to create conditions for an objective investigation into all matters, I have decided to remove Defence Minister Serdyukov from his post," Putin said.
Serdyukov's replacement will be Sergei Shoigu, recently named governor of the Moscow region and known as a popular and loyal Putin ally during nearly two decades as head of the Emergencies Ministry.
The defence minister wields immense power in Russia, channelling billions of dollars every year through the country's powerful defence 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.
Corruption has been endemic at the defence ministry for decades. The country's top military prosecutor said last year that a fifth of the budget was stolen or embezzled.
Putin said at the televised meeting with Shoigu that he must continue "grandiose plans for the reform of the army".
Russian investigators raided the offices of Defence 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...