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‘Nobody would have arrested him for corruption’ Russian deputy defense minister reportedly charged with bribery as cover story for treason investigation

Source: Meduza
Alexey Nikolsky / Sputnik / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

A day after Russian Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov was arrested for allegedly taking bribes, becoming the highest-ranking official to face felony charges in recent years, a Moscow court has sent him to pre-trial detention for two months.

According to investigators, Ivanov participated in a criminal conspiracy in which he accepted “especially large bribes” while overseeing Defense Ministry construction and repair projects. Sergey Borodin, a friend of Ivanov, has also been remanded in custody.

However, the independent news site iStories reported on Wednesday that the real reason for Ivanov’s arrest is suspected treason, citing two sources close to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). “The bribery [charges] are for the public. They don’t want to talk publicly about treason right now — it’s a big scandal. It’s the deputy defense minister, after all,” the outlet quoted one source as saying.

The second source said that Vladimir Putin “gave the order after being convinced that the case was specifically about treason” and that “nobody would have arrested [Ivanov] for corruption.”

Ivanov’s arrest was first reported on the evening of April 23. According to Russian state media, he will be held in Moscow's Lefortovo remand prison for the duration of the authorities’ preliminary investigation. The Telegram channel 112 said that investigators have begun searching a dacha owned by Ivanov in Dagestan, while the channel VChK-OGPU reported that three other people have been arrested in connection with the case. 

Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told journalists on Wednesday evening that Vladimir Putin has been notified of Ivanov’s arrest and that Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was “informed in advance.” Ivanov is known to be a longtime ally of Shoigu, having served as his deputy governor in the Moscow region back in 2012.

Ivanov has overseen a wide range of construction projects as deputy defense minister, including the Main Cathedral of the Russian Armed Forces, Moscow’s Patriot Park theme park, and the reconstruction of occupied Mariupol. In 2019, he was included on Forbes Russia’s list of the country’s richest security officials.

Following Ivanov’s arrest, a source told Forbes that Ivanov is “Shoigu’s man” but that he’d “had some slip-ups” and that “questions had piled up” around him. The source speculated that his arrest could be part of a “purge” of Shoigu’s inner circle in preparation for the minister’s possible departure from the defense ministry.

Ivanov has been the subject of a number of corruption investigations by journalists. In 2022, Team Navalny reported that the deputy minister’s family owns multiple expensive properties in the Moscow region. Later that year, they reported that Ivanov’s first wife had spent hundreds of thousands of euros on jewelry, clothing, and vacations over the years, with third-party individuals and companies regularly footing the bill. Ivanov has been sanctioned by the U.S. and the E.U.

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