Army Housing Chief Takes His Own Life

Vipperson.ruViktor Vlasov
A high-level official who commanded a Defense Ministry department responsible for allocating billions of dollars worth of apartments and rent subsidies shot and killed himself Thursday in his Moscow office, authorities said.

The body of Colonel General Viktor Vlasov was found in his office early Thursday at the Defense Ministry's headquarters, near the Arbatskaya metro station, according to Vyacheslav Sedov, the ministry's chief spokesman.

"The investigation has just begun, so we cannot comment on possible motives," Sedov said.

Other details, such as the time of the suicide and whether there were witnesses, were not immediately available.

The Prosecutor General's Office's Investigative Committee, which handles high-profile cases, has put together a team of investigators that includes military prosecutors, it said in a statement Thursday.

"A criminal case has been opened in connection with the suicide of Viktor Vlasov. ... An examination of the crime scene and other procedures essential to the investigation are currently being conducted," the statement said.

Vlasov, 57, the recipient of numerous decorations including the prestigious order "For Service to the Motherland," was promoted to the housing post in December, Sedov said. He had previously served as deputy to Lieutenant General Anatoly Grebenyuk, who was fired by President Vladimir Putin for failing to deliver results.

Defense analysts said Thursday that the suicide was likely connected to Vlasov's professional duties and that he may be the first high-profile victim of a drive for more accountability begun when Valery Serdyukov became defense minister last February.

"This sphere is extraordinarily corrupt," said Alexander Khramchikhin, a senior researcher at the Institute for Political and Military Analysis.

"An extraordinary amount of money is under the control of people who earn mere kopeks," he said.

In its 2007 report , the Military Prosecutor's Office said that crimes committed by military personnel had cost the country more than 1 billion rubles, or about $40 million.

The report, a summary of which was posted on the Defense Ministry web site, said military construction was a sphere in which more supervision was required.

By appointing Vlasov to the position, the Kremlin was signaling that it wanted better control over cash flows through the ministry, Khramchikhin said.

"It was not a transparency drive," he added. It was an effort to regulate the flow of funds, which is an important difference."

Russian media reported that Vlasov's department had recently been the subject of an audit, which uncovered a series of violations.

Sedov, the ministry spokesman, could not confirm the reports, "but checks are continuously being conducted anyway," he said.