Vladimir Putin has dismissed the Russian defence minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, and replaced him with a loyal ally two weeks after the ministry was drawn into a corruption scandal.
The Russian president was shown on television on Tuesday meeting Sergei Shoigu, a former emergencies minister who had briefly been governor of the Moscow region, and discussing his new role as defence chief, in which he will oversee reforms to modernise the armed forces.
“You know about the circumstances which have unfortunately arisen recently surrounding the Defence Minister. In order to create the necessary conditions for an objective investigation, all issues which have arisen in connection with this, I have made the decision to dismiss Defence Minister Anatoly Eduardovich Serdyukov, and appoint someone else in his place,” Putin said.
“The future head of this extremely important – one of the most important ministries in the country – must be a person who can continue everything positive that has been accomplished in recent years, and provide for dynamic growth in the country’s armed forces, fulfil state defence requisitions, and our army’s other grandiose plans for
modifying the army’s weaponry. In connection with this, I think that you could be this person. And I propose that you take over the position of the Russian Federation’s defence minister.”
Shoigu said that the appointment was unexpected, but that he would do his best in his new position.
Al Jazeera’s Rory Challands, reporting from Moscow on Tuesday, said that Shoigu is considered to be a “safe pair of hands”.
Russian investigators raided the offices of a defence ministry firm last month and opened an investigation into the company on suspicion that it had sold assets to commercial firms at a loss of nearly $100m.
The investigation also raised questions about Serdyukov’s relationship with a former top military bureaucrat.
Serdyukov, a former tax collector, was brought into the ministry in 2007 to oversee military restructuring that have
reduced the size of the country’s fighting forces and attempted to crack down on widespread corruption.
Shoigu, 57, was emergencies minister from 1994 until this year, when he became governor of the Moscow region.
He has long been loyal to Putin.