Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Industry lobby forced Russian Defence Minister’s sacking?

MOSCOW, November 7, 2012

Russia's Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov was sacked on Tuesday over a massive corruption scandal in his agency.

President Vladimir Putin said he had fired Mr. Serdyukov "to create conditions for an objective investigation" into a suspected $100-million property scam at a Defence Ministry agency.

Mr. Putin replaced Mr Serdyukov (50) with Moscow region Governor Sergei Shoigu (57).

Mr. Serdyukov recently visited India to co-chair with Defence Minister A. K. Antony, an annual session of the Indo-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation, overshadowed by a fresh delay in the delivery of the INS Vikramaditya to India.

Mr. Serdyukov's dismissal came two weeks after the investigative committee raided the offices of Oboronservis, a holding company Mr. Serdyukov set up, among other things, to dispose of the Defence Ministry's excessive Soviet-era land property.

According to investigators, Oboronservis used state funds to build expensive properties on the Defence Ministry's land and then sold them at rock-bottom prices to well-connected buyers.

Some analysts think the corruption scandal could just be a useful pretext for removing Mr. Serdyukov, who antagonised the defence industry lobby by refusing to buy overpriced weapons and was hugely unpopular with the military.

Mr. Serdyukov, a former tax chief, had been appointed in 2007 to undertake a radical reform of the armed forces which involved mass retirement of ranking officers. Now that the most painful part of the reform has been completed, its architect was replaced with a more popular official.

Mr. Shoigu is credited with building up a highly efficient system of disaster management as a long-serving Minister of Emergency Situations.
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