Putin sacks military chief after minister
Col Gen Valery Gerasimov (L), Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (C) and President Vladimir Putin meet in Moscow’s Kremlin. Putin named Gerasimov the new chief of the armed forces. AP photoRussian President Vladimir Putin replaced Russia’s army chief of staff with a veteran commander from the second Chechnya war, in a shake-up of the country’s military after the defense minister was sacked.
Army Chief of Staff Nikolai Makarov is to be replaced by General Valery Gerasimov, a commander from the north Caucasus military district in the second Chechnya war, Putin announced days after the sacking of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov in a graft scandal. “You are an experienced person,” Putin told Gerasimov in a meeting at the Kremlin on Nov. 9 that also included new Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
“I believe the minister has picked the right candidate and I hope that you will work to the best of your abilities and efficiently.” The chief of staff is one of three people in Russia with exclusive access to nuclear launch codes. The other two are the president and the defense minister. Shoigu described Gerasimov, who served as first deputy chief of staff between 2010 and 2012, as a “military man from head to toe.” He added that Gerasimov enjoyed respect in the army and had “colossal experience working both at the general staff” as well as “in the field.”
A career officer, 57-year-old Gerasimov also served as the commander of the 58th army in the North Caucasus military district in the late 90s and commanded Russian troops in the second war against separatists in Chechnya. On Nov. 6, Putin fired Serdyukov over a corruption scandal, the most dramatic change to the government since he returned for a third Kremlin term in May amid rising discontent. Serdyukov made many enemies, including top Putin allies like the head of the giant state conglomerate Russian Technologies Sergei Chemezov, as he tried to get Russia’s arms manufacturers to produce modern weaponry.
Powerful military lobby
Observers said that Putin had initially backed Serdyukov’s army and procurement reforms but eventually took the side of the powerful military lobby. Serdyukov demanded higher quality and cheaper prices from the military industry, often refusing to sign new contracts for months, and criticized arms makers for continuing to produce Soviet-era designs instead of developing new weapons, angering the industry leaders with strong Kremlin connections.
“We have had a problem with the Defense Ministry changing its demands to the industries,” Putin said . “Of course, we must seek cutting edge items, but we need certain stability too. I strongly hope that you will be able to develop a stable and good partnership with our leading defense plants.”