MOSCOW, January 14 (RIA Novosti) – Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu dismissed the acting chief military doctor on Monday following the deaths of a number of soldiers from pneumonia.
Vyacheslav Novikov, who heads the Defense Ministry’s chief military healthcare department, has to step down due to “the department’s insufficient work in a number of areas,” the ministry said in a statement.
Russia’s military healthcare system has been repeatedly criticized for corruption and failing to provide medical assistance to ill soldiers.
In the most recent instance a conscript soldier died of pneumonia at a hospital in Yekaterinburg, a city in the Urals, military prosecutors reported on Monday. Four other soldiers from different units have died of pneumonia in the Moscow Region since December.
Novikov succeeded Alexander Belevitin, who stepped down after being sentenced to eight years in prison last July on charges of abusing office and receiving bribes for overpriced medical equipment purchased by his department.
Earlier in December Shoigu said that some 75 percent of military healthcare facilities have been in use for over 40 years and are badly in need of renovation.
Novikov is not the first senior military official to be dismissed by the minister in the past months. The head of the ministry's education department Yekaterina Priezzheva was dismissed in December amid criticism of the military education reform.
Russia’s top military brass has been undergoing a major reshuffle following Shoigu’s appointment as defense minister on November 5 of last year. Shoigu replaced Anatoly Serdyukov, who was dismissed amid an investigation into fraudulent transactions involving real estate worth nearly $100 million owned by Oboronservis, a ministry-controlled defense company.
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The growing outright rivalry between the United States and China gives Russia more foreign policy weight, enabling it to assume the role of a balancer. So far it has been doing so rather skillfully. Today it may participate in a joint naval exercise with China that Beijing positions as outwardly anti-American. But tomorrow it can team up with the naval forces of the Old World.