Disgraced Russian Defense Minister Seeks Forgiveness

November 1, 2013
Serdyukov. Photo by ITAR-TASS

Former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov’s fall from grace is a thread that has unraveled a culture of corruption inside the Russian government. The case also led to the imprisonment, death, and postmortem conviction of Sergei Magnitsky, a case that has set off significant international complications.

It began when Serdyukov cheated on his wife with Yevegeniya Vasileyva, who has since been charged with fraud relating to the theft of over $100 million in stolen funds from Oboronservis, the Defense Ministry’s real-estate firm. Serdyukov has so far escaped the harshest punishment of the law, and his mistress has been the target, as she has taken most of the heat for the fraud. Now that Serdyukov has gone back to his wife and family, the question becomes whether this changes that dynamic. – Ed.

Former Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, who was separated from his wife Yuliya last year, has returned to his family, Komsomolskaya Pravda claims, citing a source close to the scandalous official.

According to Komsomolskaya Pravda, Serdyukov asked forgiveness from his wife Yuliya Pokhlebenina for his amorous adventures. This news shook the former subordinate and favorite of the ex-minister, Yevgeniya Vasilyeva. She fell “even more into a trance” under house arrest, writes the publication.

Investigators do not rule out that after such an upheaval, the ex-official may become more talkative in interrogations. Earlier Vasilyeva had taken the blame for the unlawful sale of real estate by the Defense Ministry; however, her behavior may change on account of this news.

Pokhlebenina is Serdyukov’s first wife. They married in 2002. In the spring of 2012, Pokhlebenina applied for a divorce, but it is not known if the court satisfied her request. She is the daughter of Victor Zybkov [the Russian president’s special representative for liaison with the Forum of Gas Export Countries; chair of the board of directors of Gazprom; former first vice premier in the Putin government and past prime minister in 2008].

We will recall that the Ministry of Defense was at the center of a major scandal in October 2012. At that time the Investigative Committee opened up several criminal cases immediately on embezzlement of land and shares in the company Oboronservis OJSC. Officials of the Ministry were selling the most liquid and prestigious real estate, lowering the price several times.

The initial damages calculated by the investigation are nearly 7 billion rubles. For the sake of “objective investigation” of the case, Serdyukov was sent into retirement, and figures in the case as a witness.

A director of Oboronservis, Vasilyeva, is accused under a number of articles of the Criminal Code including especially large-scale embezzlement. According to the investigation, Vasilyeva took part in the theft of property in the affiliates of Oboronservis.