Head of Russian armed forces to quit: reports


The Russian armed forces chief of staff is close to stepping down after falling out with the defence minister, media reports in Moscow said Tuesday.

General Yury Baluyevsky has already tendered his resignation to President Vladimir Putin, the English language daily Moscow Times said, citing an unnamed ministry source. The source said Baluyevsky had previously asked to be relieved of his post at least once, but had been refused.

Baluyevsky has been angered by a series of reforms pushed by Defence Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, according to Russian media. Serdyukov was appointed last year.

"In the near future, the defence ministry's chief of staff, Yury Baluyevsky, will probably leave," a news website reported on Tuesday.

A former furniture dealer, Serdyukov is the second civilian to head Russia's armed forces.

He has ruffled feathers in the ministry with plans to sell off assets, move the navy headquarters from Moscow to Saint Petersburg and with calls for job cuts in the ministry.

The row comes at a sensitive period in Russian politics. Putin is preparing to hand over to his successor Dmitry Medvedev in May, and Moscow is in a stand-off with Western countries over Nato expansion and US plans for a European missile defence shield.

"On the eve of the the change in government, the conflict between the top brass and the civilian defence minister, Anatoly Serdyukov, has reached a peak," the news website commented. (AFP)