Home International Russia detains ally of Defence Minister Shoigu for corruption

Russia detains ally of Defence Minister Shoigu for corruption

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A Russian court on Wednesday ordered one of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s deputies be kept in custody on suspicion of taking bribes, the highest-profile corruption case since President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in 2022.

Russian Deputy Defence Minister Timur Ivanov inspects the construction of apartment blocks in Mariupol, Russian-controlled Ukraine, in this still image from video released October 15, 2022. File picture: Russian Defence Ministry, Handout via Reuters

By Guy Faulconbridge and Lidia Kelly

MOSCOW – A Russian court on Wednesday ordered one of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s deputies be kept in custody on suspicion of taking bribes, the highest-profile corruption case since President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in 2022.

Deputy Defence Minister Timur Ivanov was detained on Tuesday at work by the Federal Security Service (FSB), the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB, for accepting large bribes.

Moscow’s Basmanny District Court ordered Ivanov be kept in custody until June 23. Ivanov, 48, dressed in his uniform, was shown standing in a glass cage in court, frowning slightly, footage released by the court service showed.

“The investigation believes that Ivanov entered into a criminal conspiracy with third parties, teamed up with them in advance to commit an organised crime by an organised group,” the court service said.

The conspiracy was to receive “property and services on a particularly large scale during contract and sub-contract work for the ministry of defence,” the court service said.

Russian media said he denied being guilty. He faces 15 years in jail if convicted. State media gave the case full coverage.

The sudden arrest of an ally of Shoigu, who Putin tasked with fighting the war in Ukraine, triggered speculation about a battle within the elite and of a public crackdown on the corruption which has plagued Russia’s post-Soviet armed forces.

Some Russian bloggers, who have long accused senior generals of incompetence, rejoiced at the apparent fall of a top military official long linked to the ostentatious opulence which Putin has made clear he does not want to see displayed in wartime.

Some said the arrest could be a public lesson for the elite, though others said it was a blow for Shoigu, a close Putin ally and one of Russia’s most powerful men.

The Kremlin said Putin had been informed, and added that Shoigu had also been told. The defence ministry made no comment. A close friend of Ivanov’s, Sergei Borodin, was also charged with conspiring to take bribes.

OSTENTATIOUS WEALTH

Ivanov, who has served as deputy minister since 2016, was in charge of property management, housing, construction and mortgages at the defence ministry – whose spending has spiralled since the start of the war.

“Lets just say the investigation did not start yesterday, the day before yesterday or even a month ago,” an unidentified Russian law enforcement source told the TASS state news agency. FSB military counter-intelligence was involved, TASS said.

Ivanov had long been the subject of journalistic investigations which alleged he and his family lived a lavish lifestyle complete with visits to Europe’s most expensive boutiques and an array of deluxe real estate.

In 2022, Russia’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, headed by the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, investigated Ivanov.

It alleged that he and his family lived a life of luxury including yachts, helicopters, visits to French Riviera, purchases of diamonds and even a 19th Century mansion on one of Moscow’s most elegant streets.

Forbes magazine listed Ivanov as one of the wealthiest men in Russia’s security structures. Other investigations alleged corruption in Russia’s reconstruction of Mariupol, the Ukrainian city on the Sea of Azov that is controlled by Russian forces.

Ivanov was unable to comment as he was in detention. Putin last month ordered the FSB to root out corruption in state defence procurement.

Ivanov, who graduated with a degree in mathematics from Moscow State University, rose through the ranks of Russia’s state atomic energy sector before moving to become the deputy head of Moscow region’s government under Shoigu, who was then governor.

Some Russian military bloggers have long accused top generals of corruption, especially after the army’s hurried withdrawal from parts of Ukraine after over-extending itself during the first days of the invasion.

“It is clear that this is a tectonic shift,” said Yuri Podolyaka, one of the most popular pro-Russian military bloggers. “And this is not about Ivanov… I hope this is only the beginning.”

– REUTERS

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