Russia arrests another senior Defense Ministry official in bribery charges


A second senior Russian Defense Ministry official was arrested on bribery charges, officials said Tuesday, days after President Vladimir Putin replaced the defense minister in a Cabinet shake-up that fueled expectations of more purges at the ministry.

The Investigative Committee, Russia’s top state criminal investigation agency, said that Lt. Gen. Yury Kuznetsov, the chief of the ministry’s main personnel directorate, was arrested on charges of bribery and placed in custody pending investigation and trial.

Kuznetsov is accused of accepting an exceptionally large bribe, a charge punishable by up to 15 years in prison. His home and other properties were searched and authorities seized gold coins, luxury items and over 100 million rubles (just over $1 million) in cash, the committee said in a statement.

On Sunday, Putin reshuffled his Cabinet as he starts his fifth term in office, replacing Sergei Shoigu, who served as defense minister for 11 1/2 years, with Andrei Belousov, an economics expert and former deputy prime minister. Putin named Shoigu the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, a role roughly similar to the U.S. national security adviser, replacing Nikolai Patrushev.

Patrushev, a longtime hawkish and powerful member of Putin’s inner circle who held the job for 16 years, was appointed a presidential aide. Alexei Dyumin, the governor of the Tula region and often mentioned as one of Putin’s potential successors, was also appointed a presidential aide in the reshuffle.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday that Patrushev will oversee Russian shipbuilding industries in his new job, but may later also deal with other duties.

He rejected the claims that Shoigu’s reshuffle represented a demotion, describing his new post as a “very senior job with broad responsibilities.”

While Shoigu, who had personal ties with Putin and accompanied him on vacations in the Siberian mountains over the years, was given a new senior position, the future of his close entourage in the Defense Ministry appeared in doubt under Belousov.

Shoigu’s deputy, Timur Ivanov, was arrested last month on bribery charges and was ordered to remain in custody pending an official investigation. His arrest was widely interpreted as an attack on Shoigu and a possible precursor to his dismissal.

Shoigu has been widely seen as a key figure behind Putin’s decision to send Russian troops into Ukraine in February 2022. He and the chief of the General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov had faced strong criticism from Russian hawks for the military setbacks, including the failure to capture Kyiv in the opening weeks of the invasion and a hasty retreat by Russian troops from northeastern and southern Ukraine in the fall of 2022.

The shake-up comes as Russian troops are pressing offensives in several sectors in Ukraine trying to take advantage of a slowdown in Western aid to Ukraine in what many observers see as a decisive moment in the war.

The Kremlin sought to ease the widespread bewilderment over choosing an economics expert without any past military record as defense minister by emphasizing that Gerasimov, who directs the fighting in Ukraine, has kept his post.

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