World

Russia Detains Another Defense Official, in New Sign of Putin Shake-Up

Russia has jailed a top defense official, the fourth in a month, state media reported on Thursday, expanding President Vladimir V. Putin’s biggest shake-up of his military leadership since the invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago.

A Moscow military court ordered Lt. Gen. Vadim Shamarin jailed for two months on Wednesday on suspicion of “large-scale” bribery, state news agencies said. He faces 15 years in prison. General Shamarin was a deputy head of the Russian military’s main commanding body, the general staff, and oversaw its communications directorate.

A photograph of General Shamarin, released by the Russian Defense Ministry.Credit…Russian Defense Ministry Press Service, via Associated Press

The detention of General Shamarin is the latest in a series of high-profile arrests that have coincided with Mr. Putin’s appointment of a new defense minister, Andrei R. Belousov, earlier this month.

Timur Ivanov, a deputy defense minister, and Lt. Gen. Yuri Kuznetsov, who oversaw the ministry’s personnel department, were detained for the same bribery charge in recent weeks. And earlier this week, state media reported that Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov, the former commander of Russia’s 58th Combined Arms Army, had been detained on fraud allegations.

The Kremlin tightly controls the justice system, and taken together, the corruption arrests signal Mr. Putin’s most aggressive effort to overhaul his military leadership since the disastrous beginnings of his Ukraine invasion in early 2022.

“Fighting corruption is deliberate work,” the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, told reporters on Thursday, rejecting the notion that a purge was underway. “There’s no talk, of course, about any kind of campaign.”

In the first two years of the war, Mr. Putin oversaw few publicly announced changes, let alone arrests, of his military leadership, despite widespread reports of corruption, mismanagement and incompetence by his generals.

With his military on the back foot, analysts said, Mr. Putin placed a premium on loyalty and sought to avoid potentially destabilizing personnel moves.

But now, Russia’s Army is on the offensive along much of the frontline, while Ukraine struggles with shortages of arms and personnel. Having orchestrated a rubber-stamp re-election in March and an inauguration to a fifth term in May, Mr. Putin appears confident enough in his grip on power and his military edge to come down harshly against military leaders who have fallen out of favor.

One of the Kremlin’s goals appears to be showing the Russian public that it is taking seriously the military’s corruption problem, a topic that popular Russian bloggers who support the war have written about extensively since the invasion began.

Underlining that effort, one of Russia’s main state news agencies, RIA Novosti, reported on Thursday that General Shamarin’s wife bought a $200,000 Mercedes S.U.V. in November 2022 — even though his available financial reports show a household income of no more than $34,000 a year at the current exchange rate.

Oleg Matsnev contributed reporting.

Related Articles

Back to top button