Putin extends defence ministry purge, hands job to a relative

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russian President Vladimir Putin sacked four deputy defence ministers on Monday and appointed a relative to fill one of the resulting vacancies.

The reshuffle marked the latest stage in a radical shakeout which Putin launched in May when he unexpectedly removed his longstanding defence minister Sergei Shoigu.

More than two years into the war in Ukraine, Putin has used the changes to signal that he wants to clear out wastage and corruption in the ministry and harness Russia's war economy more effectively to serve the needs of soldiers at the front.

In the latest changes, Putin sacked deputy defence ministers Nikolai Pankov, Ruslan Tsalikov, Tatiana Shevtsova and Pavel Popov, according to Kremlin decrees.

He appointed Anna Tsivileva, the daughter of his late cousin, as a deputy defence minister whose responsibilities will include improving social and housing support for military personnel. Her husband Sergei Tsivilev is Russia's energy minister.

Putin had previously appointed Tsivileva as head of a state fund to support participants of Russia's war effort in Ukraine.

Leonid Gornin, previously first deputy finance minister, will now serve as first deputy defence minister under Defence Minister Andrei Belousov, an economist with no military experience who was named last month to replace Shoigu.

Gornin's main tasks are "to increase the transparency of financial flows and ensure efficient spending of budget funds", the defence ministry said.

Also named as deputy defence ministers were Oleg Savelyev and Pavel Fradkov, the son of former Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov. Fradkov will oversee the management of property, land and construction relating to the military.

Another former deputy defence minister, Timur Ivanov, was arrested on April 23 and accused of bribe-taking. Since then, four other top officials at the ministry and general staff have been arrested on the same charges in the biggest corruption scandal to hit the Russian government in years.

(Reporting by Reuters; writing by Mark Trevelyan; editing by Alexander Smith)

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