Anatoliy Serdyukov completed his fifth year as Russia’s Defense Minister on Wednesday (February 15).
But the inimitable Argumenty nedeli concludes “clouds are thickening” around him.
AN says Serdyukov’s in the “eye of a storm” of PA cadre changes, and he’s begun sacrificing subordinates to save himself.
The paper’s Defense Ministry source claims there will be a large number of resignations from “support structures controlled by the military department,” i.e. the quasi-commercialized, civilianized logistic agencies established to outsource “non-core” military functions.
OAO Slavyanka — responsible for housing and communal services in military towns — will lose its general director, Aleksandr Yelkin, over poor winter preparations and boiler breakdowns in Murmansk, Kaliningrad, and the Far East.
Not surprisingly, the source says this decision followed Prime Minister Putin’s harsh criticism of Serdyukov on February 9. See Kommersant, Komsomolskaya pravda, Nezavisimaya gazeta, or Newsru.com for more on this.
The general director of Agroprom — an affiliate of OAO Oboronservis — Natalya Dynkova, lost her position for “redistributing” the military food procurement market. Agroprom declined an AN request for comment on Dynkova’s situation.
AN’s source also says Serdyukov’s apparat chief [chief of staff] Yelena Vasilyeva is also “hanging by a thread.” From detention, the indicted former chief of GVMU, General-Major Aleksandr Belevitin has given evidence against her.
Several months ago, AN claimed dustups with Vasilyeva led to former Deputy Defense Minister Mokretsov’s departure as well as complaints from high-ranking civilians and officers.
Finally, AN’s officer source says the FSB is investigating and arresting some people connected to the Defense Ministry’s commercial structures. He concludes Serdyukov is ridding himself of people who could compromise him or interfere with him finding a place in once-and-future president Putin’s new government this spring.
BFM.ru sounded a separate but similar note reporting that the chief of a firm entrusted with selling excess Defense Ministry property is suspected of fraud.
General director of the “Expert” Legal Support Center, Ye. F. Smetanova allegedly sold military property for reduced prices in exchange for kickbacks ranging from 5 to 25 percent of the transaction, according to the MVD. She reportedly received 18 million rubles for endorsing the sale of four Samara Voyentorgy for 147 million.
Investigators are trying to identify other Defense Ministry properties sold with kickbacks as well as possible co-conspirators in the schemes.
In 2011, the Defense Ministry conducted 43 auctions and sold real estate for 4.7 billion rubles. Movable military property was sold to the tune of 560 million.
It’s worth recalling the Main Military Prosecutor’s words about the scale of Defense Ministry corruption in 2011. He singled out commercial firms outsourcing for the military and violations of auction rules as particular problems, along with routine kickbacks and bribery.
Where does this leave us?
Things aren’t so rosy for Serdyukov right now.
For one thing, Rogozin’s replacement of the virtually invisible Sergey Ivanov has probably been a near-daily irritation for the Defense Minister.
Even after five years, it’s still hard to get a handle on all the military’s “financial flows.”
And resignations and reports of corruption don’t reflect well on Serdyukov.
Still, Serdyukov remains a member of Team Putin, and he’s probably secure. The election season makes everyone nervous, and it’s hard to say who’s driving corruption charges. Shaking out some incompetent or corrupt defense officials might serve to create the impression that Prime Minister Putin’s on top of things.