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Russian corruption probe widens as senior defence official arrested

Yuri Kuznetsov, the second senior official arrested in the case, is accused of bribery after being found holding $1m.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has announced he will wave goodbye to Sergei Shoigu (R) as defence minister (AFP)Published On 14 May 202414 May 2024

Russian police have arrested a senior Ministry of Defence official on bribery charges.

The Investigative Committee of Russia announced on Tuesday the arrest of Yuri Kuznetsov, head of personnel. He is the second senior official from the ministry to be arrested in what appears to be a widening corruption case, which coincides with an apparent tightening of oversight of the military by the Kremlin amid its war on Ukraine.

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The HR chief was arrested after $1m in roubles and foreign currency, as well as gold coins, watches and luxury items were discovered at his properties, investigators said.

“According to the investigation, in 2021-2023, as the head of the 8th Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Kuznetsov received a bribe from representatives of commercial structures for performing certain actions in their favour,” the committee said.

The charges against him carry a jail term of up to 15 years.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on Kuznetsov’s arrest, saying the authorities were looking into the matter.

Tightened oversight

Kuznetsov’s detention follows the arrest of Deputy Defence Minister Timur Ivanov on April 23. At least five people have since been arrested, according to reports.

Ivanov denies accusations that he received bribes worth $11m in the form of property services from a construction company in return for military contracts. A Moscow court last week rejected an appeal against his detention.

The other men arrested were Alexander Fomin, co-founder of a construction company that allegedly paid the bribes, and Anton Filatov, former head of several companies subordinate to the Defence Ministry, who is suspected of large-scale embezzlement.

The Kremlin is moving to tighten its oversight of the military amid the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, Peskov suggested.

Two new Kremlin aides were announced on Tuesday amid a reshuffle following President Vladimir Putin’s re-election. Alexei Dyumin will oversee the defence industry, and Nikolai Patrushev will have a remit for shipbuilding.

Putin has also unexpectedly removed Sergei Shoigu as defence minister. He is being replaced by Andrei Belousov, an economist and former deputy prime minister with no military background.

Peskov said the Kremlin did not believe that a change of defence minister and ongoing corruption scandals within the ministry would negatively affect Moscow’s “special military operation” as it calls the war in Ukraine.

The former defence minister has a wide range of tasks in his new role as secretary of the Security Council that are of great importance to Russia, the spokesman said.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies