Russia detains ally of Defense Minister Shoigu for corruption

Russian security services detained one of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s deputies on suspicion of taking major bribes, the highest-profile corruption case since President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in early 2022.

Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov was detained on Tuesday, according to a brief 22-word statement by Russia’s investigative committee. The statute that the investigators cited for his detention is for accepting bribes “on a particularly large scale.”

He faces 15 years in jail if convicted.

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.

Ivanov, a top Russian military official, was arrested on suspicion of accepting a bribe,  The Investigative Committee, Russia's top law enforcement agency, reported Ivanov's detention on Tuesday without offering any details of the accusations against him, saying only that he is suspected of taking an especially large bribe.
Timur Ivanov at the Basmanny District Court in Moscow on Wednesday.Basmanny District Court press service via AP

The Kremlin said Putin had been informed, and added that Shoigu had also been told. Ivanov was present earlier on Tuesday at a meeting of top defense officials chaired by Shoigu.

Ivanov, who has served as deputy minister since 2016, was in charge of property management, housing, construction and mortgages at the defense ministry. The defense ministry has made no comment.

Russia’s Kommersant newspaper said that Ivanov, 48, was arrested by the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the Soviet-era KGB which Putin last month told to root out corruption in state defense procurement.

Russian state news agency Tass and The Izvestia newspaper said others had also been detained, though there was no official confirmation of that. The Izvestia said Ivanov’s properties were being searched. State television gave the case full coverage.

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

It was not immediately clear why such a senior official with a close association with Shoigu would be targeted.

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

Within the Russian elite, there are a range of views on the war, which has had touched off the worst breakdown in relations between Russia and the West since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

Ivanov, who could not be reached as he was in detention, has long been linked to the ostentatious opulence which has characterized some sections of the post-Soviet Russian elite, including luxurious real estate and flashy parties.

In 2022, Russia’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, headed by the late Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, alleged that Ivanov and his family led a lavish lifestyle.

Ivanov, who was born in Moscow, graduated with a degree in mathematics from Moscow State University and completed a dissertation in the organizational models for the construction of nuclear power plants.

He rose through the ranks of Russia’s state atomic energy sector and worked as an adviser to the energy minister before moving to become the deputy head of Moscow region’s government under Shoigu, who was then governor.

From 2013, Ivanov headed a defense ministry construction company which builds housing for soldiers and at high-security installations.

Forbes magazine listed Ivanov as one of the wealthiest men in Russia’s security structures.