Anatoly Serdyukov is mired in a corruption scandal, but some experts say that he was driven out by conservatives unhappy with his military reforms.
President Vladimir Putin dropped the hammer Tuesday on Russia's first civilian defense minister, military reformer Anatoly Serdyukov, amid a burgeoning corruption scandal that appears to have implicated the minister and some of his top aides in a $100 million embezzlement scheme.
Mr. Putin said he was sacking Mr. Serdyukov in order to "ensure the objectivity of the investigation" into the spreading scandal around Oboronservis, a Defense Ministry-owned company that was accused last month by the State Duma's Accounting Chamber of selling prized real estate plots around Moscow at a loss – with huge kickbacks allegedly being funneled to top ministry officials. His removal means that Serdyukov can now be questioned in connection with the case.
In a somewhat unusual announcement, which suggests political considerations may lie just below the surface, a Kremlin statement made clear that Serdyukov was removed on Putin's orders, but his successor, Sergei Shoigu, was chosen "on the recommendation of the prime minister," former President Dmitry Medvedev.
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