The head of the Russian Defense Ministry sports directorate, Alexander Shchepelev, was demoted, apparently over an interview that was published saying the ministry planned to buy badminton equipment in a hype after President Dmitry Medvedev said he enjoyed the sport, an officer in the ministry's central apparatus said.
The officer told RIA Novosti the decision was made after the Izvestia daily reported in mid-November that the Defense Ministry planned to provide the Russian Army, including snipers, with badminton equipment - 10,000 rackets and tens of thousands of birdies – in 2012. Shchepelev was quoted in the report as saying that badminton was “an important part of sports training in military units.” “Watching a birdie,” he explained, “trains the eye muscles, strengthens the cardiovascular system and develops reaction speeds.”
The Russian Defense Ministry later denied the report, saying that “badminton is not an applied sports in the Armed Forces.”
The article was published soon after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev attracted international and domestic media attention with a clip on his official blog where he spoke about his love for badminton, which he said “develops your physical form, eye coordination, accuracy and reactions.” The clip was designed to foster interest in the sport among Russian schoolchildren. The video shows Medvedev playing badminton with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
Shchepelev, who was appointed as head of the Central Sports Club of the Army (CSKA), dismissed the allegations on Friday that his demotion was linked to the article, saying he had changed his job at his “own will.”
“My transfer to another position was motivated by personal reasons, not by the Izvestia publication,” he said.
Another ministry source said Shchepelev's demotion was a "planned shift."
“This is not about revenge or punishment - an officer cannot serve in one position more than three years," he said.