Putin extends Russian defence ministry reshuffle
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin fired two defence ministry deputies on Thursday, broadening a reshuffle after the sacking of the defence minister last week over a fraud investigation.
Putin dismissed deputy minister Yelena Kozlova, who oversaw finances, and Dmitry Chushkin, who was in charge of communications technologies, 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 ($724 billion) 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. 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 is serious about cracking down on corruption that is rife in the armed forces and defence industry.
Defence firm Russian Technologies on Thursday evening denied media reports saying Serdyukov had been appointed as a consultant to the company's head, Sergei Chemezov.
Russia's Investigative Committee, which answers only to Putin, has said its defence ministry fraud investigation will continue.
(Additional reporting by Gabriela Baczynska, Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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