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Russian ex-defense minister’s confidant charged

Anatoly Serdyukov

Anatoly Serdyukov

MOSCOW — A close associate of a former Russian defense minister was placed under house arrest on Friday on charges of defrauding the country of millions of dollars.

Yevgeniya Vasilyeva, the 33-year-old former head of the Defense Ministry’s property department, is accused of stealing more than $11 million through a scheme that involved the sale of the military’s prized real estate, Russia’s top investigative agency said. Vasilyeva faces up to six years in prison if convicted.

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She pleaded not guilty to the charges and asked to be released bail, a request dismissed by Moscow’s Khamovnichesky district court.

President Vladimir Putin has pointed at the military corruption probe as a reason for firing Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov earlier this month, but some Russian media pointed at the minister’s alleged romantic relationship withVasilyeva as a key factor behind his downfall.

They said that Serdyukov angered his powerful father-in-law, Viktor Zubkov, a one-time prime minister and current chairman of the state-controlled Gazprom natural gas company.

The military corruption probe began abruptly last month with a predawn search of Vasilyeva’s apartment in a prestigious building where Serdyukov also lived. Russian news reports claimed that Serdyukov himself opened the door to investigators who knocked on Vasilyeva’s door.

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