Russia detains deputy defense minister on corruption charges

Russian security services have detained one of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s deputies, Timur Ivanov, on suspicion of accepting major bribes, marking the highest-profile corruption case since President Vladimir Putin deployed troops to Ukraine in February 2022.

Ivanov, who has served as Deputy Defense Minister since 2016, was arrested on Tuesday, the Russian Investigative Committee stated in a brief announcement. He is accused of taking bribes “on a particularly large scale” and could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The arrest, which comes amid the ongoing conflict in Ukraine that Shoigu is charged with directing, has sparked speculation about internal conflict within the elite and a broader crackdown on corruption within Russia’s post-Soviet armed forces. The Kremlin confirmed that Putin and Shoigu were both informed of the detention. Ivanov was seen earlier that day at a meeting of top defense officials chaired by Shoigu.

Ivanov managed property, housing, construction, and mortgages at the Defense Ministry, which has yet to comment on his arrest. According to Kommersant, Ivanov was arrested by the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet-era KGB. Last month, Putin tasked the FSB with eradicating corruption in state defense procurement.

Izvestia reported that other individuals might also have been detained and that Ivanov’s properties were being searched, although there was no official confirmation. Russian state television extensively covered the case.

An unidentified Russian law enforcement source told the TASS news agency that the investigation had been underway for some time, involving FSB military counter-intelligence.

The motivations for targeting such a senior official closely associated with Shoigu remain unclear. Russian military bloggers have frequently accused top generals of corruption and incompetence, particularly following the army’s hasty retreat from parts of Ukraine after overextending during the early days of the invasion.

Views within the Russian elite about the war vary, which has led to the worst deterioration in relations between Russia and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Ivanov, now detained and unreachable, has been associated with the extravagant lifestyle typical of some segments of the post-Soviet Russian elite, including luxury real estate and lavish parties. In 2022, the Anti-Corruption Foundation, led by the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, alleged that Ivanov and his family lived opulently.

Born in Moscow, Ivanov graduated with a degree in mathematics from Moscow State University and completed a dissertation on organizational models for nuclear power plant construction. He ascended through the ranks of Russia’s state atomic energy sector and served as an adviser to the energy minister before becoming the deputy head of the Moscow region’s government under Shoigu, then the governor. From 2013, Ivanov led a defense ministry construction company that builds housing for soldiers and high-security installations. Forbes magazine has listed him as one of Russia’s wealthiest security officials.