World

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.

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

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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.

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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.

Associated Press