Putin Puts Shoigu in Defense

Putin Puts Shoigu in Defense

Published: November 7, 2012 (Issue # 1734)

kremlin press service

President Vladimir Putin talking to Sergei Shoigu on Tuesday morning.

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday fired Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and appointed Moscow region Governor Sergei Shoigu in his place.

Putin informed Shoigu, a longtime ally who only became governor in May after serving 18 years as emergency situations minister, about his new appointment during a meeting at the president’s Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow.

“You know about the situation that, unfortunately, has developed recently around the Defense Ministry,” Putin said, according to a transcript of the meeting published on the Kremlin’s website. “In order to create the conditions for an objective investigation of all the related issues, I have decided to relieve Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov of his duties.”

Putin said Shoigu was best suited to spearhead his ambitious plans to pump nearly $770 billion into overhauling the armed forces over the next decade.

“Thank you, Vladimir Vladimirovich,” Shoigu replied, using Putin’s name and patronymic. “This is an unexpected offer, but I will do everything in my power… to justify your confidence.”

Serdyukov had received praise for his work in pushing through unpopular military reforms since being appointed defense minister in 2007.

But Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said he was fired in connection with a corruption scandal that has engulfed Serdyukov since allegations emerged that an agency within the Defense Ministry had sold off military real estate to civilian companies at knock-down prices.

Investigators raided the offices of defense procurement agency Oboronservis, which Serdyukov chaired until last year, in connection with a $95.5 million fraud on Oct. 25.

The problem might be more personal, however. Unconfirmed media reports have said that Serdyukov’s father-in-law, former Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov, was on the warpath over alleged marital indiscretions by his son-in-law.

Peskov told reporters that Putin had “personally made the decision to remove Serdyukov” and chosen Shoigu to replace him “at the recommendation of the prime minister.”

During the meeting with Shoigu, Putin said: “There is a need for a person who can continue the positive dynamic development of the armed forces and deliver on state defense orders and the grandiose plans for army reform that have been announced. Such a person could be you, and I invite you to take the post of defense minister.”

Shoigu for years ranked as the country’s second most popular politician after Putin in opinion polls.

The acting Moscow region governor will most likely be current Deputy Governor Ruslan Tsalikov, Interfax reported, citing sources inside the regional administration.

Irek Vildanov, chairman of the Moscow region’s elections committee, told Interfax that a new governor would be chosen by voters in September 2013.

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