Ex-Russian army chief sentenced to 5 years for graft

MOSCOW - A Moscow military tribunal on Friday sentenced the former commander of Russia's land forces Vladimir Chirkin to five years in jail for taking a bribe, a court spokesman said.

Chirkin, 59, was a decorated officer who served as commander of the land forces from April 2012 before he was sacked in late 2013 when he was accused of the crime.

He is one of the most senior Russian military officers to have been convicted for corruption.

Prosecutors said that in 2008 he took a bribe of 450,000 rubles (at the time $20,000) from an officer who asked for help in receiving a flat from the defence ministry.

The officer paid and tried to move in but found another family already living in the flat, and complained to prosecutors.

The court found Chirkin guilty and sentenced him to five years in a strict penal colony, Moscow garrison tribunal spokesman Sergei Mitsyuk told AFP, adding that the general was taken into custody in the courtroom and will be stripped of his rank.

Chirkin was a career military man who was a commander in Russia's wars in Chechnya and even directed the Victory Day parade on the Red Square in May 2013.

Earlier this year a Russian court jailed a former defence ministry official Yevgenia Vasilyeva in a long-running probe into multi-million dollar embezzlement which also saw the former defence minister Anatoly Serdyukov lose his post and his mistress jailed.