May 23, 2024

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Russia arrests another senior Defense Ministry official on bribery charges

Russia arrests another senior Defense Ministry official on bribery charges

A second senior official in the Russian Defense Ministry was arrested on charges of bribery, officials announced on Tuesday, days after the arrest of President Vladimir Putin. Replace the Minister of Defense In a cabinet reshuffle that fueled expectations of more purges in the ministry.

The Investigative Committee, Russia’s top state criminal investigative agency, said Lieutenant-General Yuri Kuznetsov, head of the ministry’s Main Personnel Directorate, was arrested on bribery charges and placed in detention 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 possessions were searched and authorities confiscated gold coins, luxury goods and more than 100 million rubles (just over $1 million) in cash, the committee said in a statement.

On Sunday, Putin reshuffled his cabinet as he began work His fifth term in office replacing Sergey Shoigu, He served as Minister of Defense for 11 and a half years, along with Andrei Belousov, an economist and former deputy prime minister. Putin appointed Shoigu as Secretary of the Russian Security Council, a role roughly similar to the US National Security Advisor, succeeding Nikolai Patrushev.

Patrushev, a longtime hardline and powerful member of Putin’s inner circle who has held the position for 16 years, was appointed assistant president. Alexei Dyumin, the governor of the Tula region who is often cited as one of Putin’s potential successors, was also appointed assistant to the president in the cabinet reshuffle.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Tuesday that Patrushev will oversee Russia’s shipbuilding industries in his new job, but he may later also take on other duties.

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

While Shoigu, who has 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 inner circle at the Defense Ministry appeared in doubt under Belousov.

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

Shoigu is widely seen as a key figure behind Putin’s decision to send Russian troops into Ukraine in February 2022. He and Chief of the General Staff General Valery Gerasimov have faced harsh criticism from Russian hawks over military setbacks, including the failure to seize Kiev in weeks The first of the invasion and rapid withdrawal of Russian forces from northeastern and southern Ukraine in the fall of 2022.

This change comes as Russian forces launch attacks in several sectors of Ukraine in an attempt to take advantage of slowing Western aid to Ukraine in what many observers consider a decisive moment in the war.

The Kremlin sought to ease widespread confusion over the selection of an economist with no previous military record as defense minister by emphasizing that Gerasimov, who is directing the fighting in Ukraine, retained his post.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine on https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine