* Putin names new top general
* Changes follow corruption scandal
* Defence minister was removed three days ago
By Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW, Nov 9 Russian President Vladimir Putin
replaced the chief of his military staff on Friday in a
reshuffle that stamped the authority of the Kremlin chief, and
his new defence minister, on the armed forces after a corruption
Putin removed General Nikolai Makarov after four years as
the nuclear power's top general and replaced him with General
Valery Gerasimov, 57, a commander who fought Muslim separatists
in the Chechnya region.
Changes had been expected to allow new Defence Minister
Sergei Shoigu to bring in his own team after replacing Anatoly
Serdyukov, sacked on Tuesday after an investigation began into
suspicious sales of ministry property to insiders.
Putin told Gerasimov to press on with reforms to modernise
the armed forces and, hinting at tensions that had mounted under
Serdyukov's stewardship, the president told him to improve
relations with the defence industry.
"I hope very much that you and the minister will be able to
build a good and stable relationship with our leading
enterprises in the defence ministry," Putin said during a
televised meeting with Gerasimov and Shoigu.
Referring indirectly to Serdyukov's poor ties with industry
chiefs he had chided for not developing better weapons, Putin
said: "We have recently run into changing demands of the defence
industry from the Defence Ministry. Of course we must strive to
have cutting edge items, but we need a certain stability too."
Gerasimov, deputy chief of the general staff since 2010, was
also appointed first deputy defence minister. Putin also named
Arkady Bakhin, commander of Russia's western military district,
as another first deputy defence minister.
SHOIGU STAMPS AUTHORITY
The rapid overhaul of the military was intended by Shoigu to
assert his authority on the armed forces and to show that Putin,
the commander in chief, is firmly in charge despite the scandal.
Putin's remarks also indicated the political importance of
the defence industry as its many workers, and voters, spread
across the vast country depend on regular state orders for their
Putin convincingly won a six-year third term in March but
also faces a challenge from urban protesters which he wants to
prevent spreading to the provincial areas on which he depends
for much of his support.
Although Serdyukov was sacked soon after the start of the
corruption investigation, it may not have been the main cause of
He had many political enemies - including in the Kremlin -
who were jealous of his control of the ministry's huge budget
and had opponents in the military angered by deep personnel cuts
in the armed forces under his reforms.
Russia media also say he had fallen out with his influential
father-in-law Viktor Zubkov, a former prime minister and ally of
Putin, after his marriage to Zubkov's daughter hit the rocks.
Defence experts said military reforms, due to take more than
100,000 officers out of service, would not be in danger under
Shoigu and Gerasimov.
The reforms, two decades after the collapse of the Soviet
Union and following two wars in Chechnya that highlighted the
military's weaknesses, are intended to create a more modern,
mobile and flexible army.
"Army modernisation will continue by all means because this
was not Serdyukov's reform, this was Putin's and (Prime Minister
Dmitry) Medvedev's reform - with Serdyukov enforcing it," said
Ruslan Pukhov, director of the Moscow-based Centre for Analysis
of Strategies and Technologies.
Other analysts said Shoigu has turned to people he believed
would be reliable in the battle against corruption, which many
analysts says runs deep in the military establishment.
"The level of corruption in the Defence ministry was
enormous. And if Shoigu can at least limit it, this would be an
achievement in itself," said Valery Yevseyev, director of the
Centre for Social and Political Studies, a think-tank.