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Russian President Reshuffles Top Generals Amid Fraud Investigation

Valery Gerasimov (file photo)
Valery Gerasimov (file photo)
President Vladimir Putin has reshuffled several top generals amid an investigation into alleged fraud at Russia's Defense Ministry.

The changes announced on November 9 come just days after the president fired the defense minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, replacing him with Sergei Shoigu, a longtime Putin ally.

Putin dismissed the chief of the armed forces' General Staff, Nikolai Makarov, replacing him with Valery Gerasimov. Makarov had served as chief of the General Staff since 2008.

Gerasimov, the former commander of the Central Military District, will also serve as first deputy defense minister.

Serdyukov, the former defense minister, was fired on November 6 amid a criminal fraud investigation into the sell-off of property at the Defense Ministry-controlled company, Oboronservis.

Investigators say fraudulent deals caused the state about $95 million in damages.

Analysts say Serdyukov had also alienated many in the military. He oversaw military reforms that included deep cuts in the number of officers.

Serdyukov was head of the Russian tax service before being appointed defense minister in 2007.

Putin praised Gerasimov during the announcement of his appointment.

"You are an experienced officer and we will have more than one discussion about the problems facing the armed forces: the army, the navy, and the air force," Putin said.

"One of our most important tasks now is, of course, the rearmament of the army and the navy."

Russian media reported that Gerasimov served as a commander of the North Caucasus Military District in 1998-2003, during Russia's offensive against separatist rebels in Chechnya.

Shoigu, the newly appointed defense minister, at a meeting with Putin in the Kremlin on November 9 praised Gerasimov as a "military man to the roots of his hair."

The reshuffle of Russia's top military brass comes as a time when Russia is planning to significantly boost military spending.

With reporting by Interfax, ITAR-TASS, BBC, and "The New York Times"
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