Sergei Shoigu officially took over as Russia's new defense minister yesterday, but the reasons for the sudden dismissal of his predecessor, Anatoliy Serdyukov, remain uncertain.
Russian President Vladimir Putin insists that he dismissed Serdyukov to allow authorities to investigate allegations of widespread corruption in the Defense Ministry. Serdyukov, who has cracked down on corruption within the armed forces, is accused of allowing his key subordinates and family members to enrich themselves in more sophisticated ways, such as by selling off valuable Defense Ministry properties at below market prices to friendly buyers in return for kickbacks.
But Russian and Western media reports indicate that family estrangement and political intrigue may be the main reasons for Serdyukov's ouster. There seems to have been a personal falling out between Serdyukov and other powerful Russian leaders, including Viktor Zubkov, chairman of Gazprom and a key Putin ally who is also the father of Serdyukov's wife. The couple has recently been estranged, and Serdyukov has allegedly begun an affair with an influential subordinate who is under investigation for corruption.