Second Russian defence ministry official arrested amid Kremlin shake-up

A second senior Russian defence official has been arrested on bribery charges, officials said on Tuesday, days after President Vladimir Putin replaced the defence minister in a Cabinet shake-up that fuelled expectations of more such purges.

Lt Gen Yury Kuznetsov, the 55-year-old chief of the Defence Ministry’s main personnel directorate, was arrested in a raid on his suburban Moscow villa on Monday, Russian media reported.

He was detained on charges of bribery and jailed pending an investigation and trial, according to the Investigative Committee, Russia’s top state criminal investigation agency.

Mr Kuznetsov is accused of accepting an “exceptionally large bribe,” a charge punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Russia Victory Day Parade
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu leave Red Square after the Victory Day military parade in Moscow (Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP)

In the raid, agents of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, broke down the doors and windows of his home while he was asleep, the reports said, seizing gold coins, luxury items and over 100 million rubles (£872,832) in cash.

His wife, who previously worked in several Defence Ministry structures, was also reportedly interrogated.

On Sunday, Mr Putin reshuffled his Cabinet as he starts his fifth term in office, replacing Sergei Shoigu, who served as defence minister for 11 and a half years, with Andrei Belousov, an economics expert and former deputy prime minister.

Mr Putin named Mr Shoigu the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, a role roughly similar to the US national security adviser, replacing Nikolai Patrushev.

Mr Patrushev, a hawkish and powerful member of Mr Putin’s inner circle who held the job for 16 years, was appointed a presidential aide.

Russia Cabinet
Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, talks with Russian Chief of General Staff Gen Valery Gerasimov, left, and Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu (Mikhail Klimentyev/AP)

Mr Patrushev will oversee Russian shipbuilding industries in his new job, but may later also deal with other duties, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday.

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

While Mr Shoigu, who had personal ties with Mr Putin and accompanied him on vacations in the Siberian mountains over the years, was given a new senior position, the future of his close entourage in the Defence Ministry appeared in doubt.

Mr Shoigu’s deputy, Timur Ivanov, was arrested last month on bribery charges and was ordered to remain in custody pending an official investigation.

His arrest was widely interpreted as an attack on Mr Shoigu and a possible precursor to his dismissal.

The shake-up appeared to be an attempt to put the defence sector in sync with the rest of the economy and tighten control over soaring military spending amid allegations of rampant corruption in the top military brass.

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