In two months, 5 generals were arrested in Russia: what is happening - ForumDaily
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In two months, 5 generals were arrested in Russia: what is happening

Last month, Russia's deputy defense minister was arrested. Then the head of the personnel department of this department was also brought to court. Recently, two more high-ranking military officials were detained. All have been charged with corruption, which they deny. What this trend may indicate CTV.

Field military uniform of Russian soldier at parade rehearsal against the background of the colors of the national flag

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The arrests began shortly before President Vladimir Putin began his fifth term. He appointed his ally, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, as Secretary of the Russian Security Council.

The arrests of high-ranking military officials immediately raised questions: is Putin restoring control over the Ministry of Defense in the context of the war in Ukraine, is there a struggle for spheres of influence between the military and security services, or is some other scenario playing out behind the walls of the Kremlin?

How serious is corruption in Russia?

Corruption scandals are not new. Officials at all ranks have been accused of profiting from their positions for decades.

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Bribery in Russia works like a carrot and a stick. It's a way to "encourage loyalty and get people on the same page" as well as a method of control, said Sam Green, director of democratic sustainability at the Center for European Policy Analysis.

As security expert Mark Galeotti said in a recent podcast, Putin wants everyone to have their own “skeleton in the closet.” If the state has incriminating material on key officials, it can choose who to target, he noted.

Corruption is “the essence of the system,” said Nigel Gould-Davies, a senior fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London.

The war in Ukraine has led to a sharp increase in defense spending, which has only increased the opportunities for bribery.

Who was arrested

Former Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov is the first official arrested in April and is still the most senior. He oversaw large military construction projects and had access to enormous amounts of money. These projects included rebuilding parts of the destroyed Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

The team, led by the late opposition leader Alexei Navalny, argued that Ivanov, 48, and his family owned luxury real estate and enjoyed lavish parties and trips abroad even after the war began. Ivanov's wife Svetlana divorced him in 2022 to avoid sanctions and continue her luxurious lifestyle.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on May 23 that the recent arrests are not a "campaign" against corruption, but rather reflect ongoing activity "in all government bodies."

In April, the Investigative Committee reported that Ivanov was suspected of receiving a particularly large bribe - a criminal offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Since then, other officials have been arrested on charges of bribery: the head of the personnel department of the Ministry of Defense, Lieutenant General Yuri Kuznetsov, Major General Ivan Popov, a career military man and former commander of the 58th combined arms army and deputy chief of the General Staff, Lieutenant General Valery Gerasimova Vadim Shamarin.

It is reported that on May 23, the fifth official of the ministry was arrested - Vladimir Verteletsky, head of the department of defense procurement of the Ministry of Defense. He was charged with abuse of official position, which resulted in damages amounting to more than $776 thousand, the Investigative Committee reported.

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In addition, on May 23, Vladimir Telaev, deputy head of the Federal Penitentiary Service for the Moscow Region, was arrested on charges of large-scale bribery.

Why is this happening now

The arrests suggest that "really egregious" corruption at the Ministry of Defense will no longer be tolerated, said Richard Connolly, an expert on Russian economics at the Royal Armed Forces Institute in London.

Soon after the inauguration Putin replaced Shoigu as defense minister with economist Andrei Belousov. Peskov said Russia's growing defense budget must fit into the country's economy as a whole.

According to Peskov, Russia's defense budget amounts to 6,7% of gross domestic product. This is a level not seen since the times of the USSR.

“There is a view that these funds need to be spent more wisely,” Connolly said.
In addition, it is important that the war is conducted correctly, because the Russian economy depends on it. Russians earn higher salaries thanks to a booming defense sector. True, this has created problems with inflation, but it allows Putin to continue to fulfill his promises to improve living standards.

Connolly said the Russian government needed to "continue the war to support the economy" but must ensure that spending and corruption did not exceed necessary levels.

According to Green, it is possible that the new Minister of Defense Belousov is removing his predecessor’s associates and sending a signal that “everything will be done differently.”

Popov's case may be different. The major general fought in Ukraine and was removed from duty in July 2023 for criticizing the leadership of the Ministry of Defense. He blamed the leadership for weapons shortages and poor supply lines, which led to numerous Russian casualties.

Now Ivan Popov may face the consequences of this criticism.

Battle for spheres of influence

It is unclear whether the driving force behind the arrests is the Kremlin or Russian intelligence agencies, in particular the Federal Security Service (FSB).

It is quite possible that officials far removed from Putin have found themselves at the center of a turf war unrelated to the appointment of a new defense minister.

Security services may be trying to fight back against military dominance. Although the Kremlin denies the fact of any purges.

What will happen next

More arrests are likely as the new defense secretary wants to show, as Connolly said, that “corruption comes with a price” to curb it.

In his opinion, it is also possible that enterprising investigators will consider opening a criminal case against the general an excellent opportunity for career growth.

However, because corruption is so widespread, it can cause panic throughout the system.

If officials are arrested for behavior that was previously not prohibited, although it was illegal, that could shift the red lines, Green said.

He believes that since the system is built on corruption, too strict measures to combat it can lead to its “collapse.”

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