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Russian defense minister's sacking suggests political infighting (+video)

Anatoly Serdyukov is mired in a corruption scandal, but some experts say that he was driven out by conservatives unhappy with his military reforms.

MOSCOW (Russian Federation) (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin named Moscow region governor and long-standing ally Sergei Shoigu as the new defence minister after firing Anatoly Serdyukov over a corruption scandal, the most dramatic change to the government since he returned to the Kremlin for a third term.
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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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