MOSCOW - Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov has been fired by President Vladimir Putin. The announcement follows a criminal probe into alleged fraud in selling the country's military assets.
Russian President Vladimir Putin replaced Anatoly Serdyukov with his long-time ally and former Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Putin made the announcement during televised comments in a meeting with Shoigu, who in May was appointed regional governor for Moscow.
Putin says the future head of 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, fulfill state defense requisitions and the army's plans for modifying weaponry.
Last month, Russia's top investigative committee raided the offices of a Defense Ministry firm under suspicion it sold commercial assets at a loss of nearly $100 million. The firm, Oboronservice, is a state-controlled company that services military aircraft and arms, and constructs military facilities.
Putin says Serdyukov was replaced to ensure an unbiased investigation into the fraud allegations.
Putin says circumstances have unfortunately arisen surrounding the defense minister. In order to create the necessary conditions for an objective investigation into all issues that have arisen, he says he decided to dismiss the defense minister.
Russian Communist Party Leader Gennady Zyuganov says he supports the decision.
Zyuganov says Serdyukov indiscriminately appointed his friends to all kinds of positions and did not oversee their decisions. He says as a result, the Defense Ministry became a den of thieves.
Several top military officials in Russia have been convicted of embezzlement in recent years.
Meanwhile, officials say that Serdyukov will be questioned as part of the probe, if there is basis for doing so.