Russia detains deputy defence minister Timur Ivanov for alleged corruption

Russian security services detained Deputy Defence Minister Timur Ivanov on Tuesday, according to a brief 22-word statement by Russia’s investigative committee. 

One of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s deputies, he has been accused of accepting bribes “on a particularly large scale”; the highest-profile corruption case since President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022.

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.

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 defence 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 defence ministry. The defence 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 defence procurement.

The Izvestia newspaper said others had also been detained, though there was no official confirmation of that.

The newspaper 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 the TASS state news agency.

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 characterised 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 organisational 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 defence ministry construction company which builds housing for soldiers and at high-security installations.

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