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Russia resignation rumors

U.S. intelligence agencies are closely watching the Russian leadership amid signs that the defense minister and chief of the military’s general staff may be ousted.

Moscow’s tightly controlled press reported earlier this month that Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and Gen. Nikolai Makarov, the chief of staff, were about to resign and that key subordinates are under investigation for corruption charges.

The reports were followed by a public statement of support from Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appeared on television Monday with both Russian officials standing behind him.

The resignation reports began Sept. 13 when the weekly newspaper Argumenti Nedeli stated that Mr. Serdyukov and Gen. Makarov were about to step down, quoting sources on the presidential staff.

The report said Mr. Putin planned to replace the defense minister with a security service official, as he has done with several other senior Russian government posts. The report identified Col. Gen. Nikolay Postnikov-Streltsov, currently first deputy chief of the general staff, as the likely successor to Gen. Makarov.

A day earlier, the Moscow Post reported an unusual personal attack on Gen. Makarov that alleged his wife, Tanya, was directly involved in official personnel decisions.

The newspaper also said that Gen. Makarov had promoted a key underling, Lt. Gen. Nikolay Pereslegin, currently first deputy commander of the Southern Military District, to several senior positions. The appointments were said to be part of an effort to prepare the deputy to replace himself and cover up mistakes made by Gen. Makarov if he were to lose his post.

Then on Sept. 17, the website Agentstvo Politicheskikh Novostey, reported on corruption charges related to Mr. Serdyukov, who was accused of procuring an inferior radar for the MiG-31 interceptor from a company that was connected to the defense minister.

The recent attacks on the two leaders, while not unprecedented, were unusual for their stridency, U.S. officials said.

The attacks came as criminal charges were brought against close associates of Mr. Serdyukov and Gen. Makarov.