Putin deepens Russian Defence Ministry reshuffle

MOSCOW Thu Nov 15, 2012 4:20pm IST

Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on the development of the Russian pensionary system at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, November 14, 2012. REUTERS/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Pool

Russia's President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting on the development of the Russian pensionary system at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, November 14, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Aleksey Nikolskyi/RIA Novosti/Pool

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin fired two Defence Ministry deputies on Thursday, broadening a reshuffle at the ministry whose head was sacked last week over a fraud investigation.

Putin dismissed deputy minister Yelena Kozlova, who oversaw finances, and Dmitry Chushkin, naming two associates of the new Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu as their replacements.

The move strengthens the grip of Putin and Shoigu at the ministry, which channels billions of tax dollars every year through Russia's huge defence industry, the world's second largest arms exporter.

"With his order, the president has released the Defence Ministry deputies ... from their positions," said a statement published on the Kremlin website.

Putin fired Anatoly Serdyukov as defence minister on November 6 and replaced the head of the armed forces General Staff three days later.

Shoigu and his allies are expected to push through root and branch military reform and oversee spending of 23 trillion roubles to replace Russia's ageing armaments by the end of the decade.

One of the new deputy ministers is Ruslan Tsalikov, a trusted Shoigu ally who worked directly under him in the Emergencies Ministry and then again in the Moscow region when Shoigu moved to become governor of the province.

The other newcomer is Yuri Borisov, the first deputy chairman of a defence industry board.

Serdyukov was dismissed last week soon after the start of an investigation into suspicions that a defence ministry firm sold property to insider companies at a loss of almost $100-million. However, the ex-minister has not yet come under investigation himself.

The public announcement of Serdyukov's dismissal was likely meant to show that Putin entering his third term as president was serious about cracking down on corruption, rife in the armed forces and defence industry.

Thursday's Kommersant daily said that following his dismissal Serdyukov had been appointed as a consultant to Sergei Chemezov, the head of defence firm Russian Technologies.

Russia's Investigative Committee, which answers only to Putin, has said its defence ministry fraud probe will continue.

(Reporting by Thomas Grove; Editing by Jon Boyle)

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