Former Russian Defense Minister Refuses to Give Evidence

MOSCOW, December 3 (RIA Novosti) – A former Russian defense minister who presided over rampant corruption in his department refused to give evidence Tuesday while facing questioning over claims he ordered soldiers to build a road leading to an elite holiday resort.

Investigators questioning Anatoly Serdyukov, who was fired last November, said in a statement that he availed himself of his right to decline to give evidence, in line with the Constitution.

“Even without a deposition from the suspect, the investigation has a sufficient volume of evidence to confirm the direct involvement of the former minister in illegal activities,” Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said.

The Investigative Committee said last month that it suspected Serdyukov of negligence and causing 56 million rubles ($1.7 million) worth of damage to the state by making improper use of serving troops.

While Serdyukov has been repeatedly questioned as a witness, he faced interrogation as a suspect for the first time Tuesday.

Markin said Serdyukov could soon be formally charged and has been ordered to commit to an undertaking not to leave his place of residence.

This means he is “obliged to appear before investigators at their requests and should not interfere in the investigation,” Markin said.

Investigators say Serdyukov gave verbal commands to his subordinates to use soldiers to build a private road to the Zhitnoye leisure complex near the Caspian Sea, and for building work at the resort itself.

The Zhitnoye resort, reportedly worth about $4.5 million, was owned by Serdyukov’s brother-in-law at the time the soldiers were involved in construction work at the site.

Kommersant newspaper reported earlier this month that investigators had extended their probe into the building of Zhitnoye until January 17. It was originally expected to be closed in September.

The Zhitnoye case is one of several ongoing corruption scandals involving the Defense Ministry.

Most of the cases have focused on the activities of Oboronservis, a Defense Ministry company that repaired and maintained military property and equipment.

A link to the Oboronservis affair was the official reason given for Serdyukov’s sacking in 2012.

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