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Russian deputy defense minister arrested on corruption charges

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A Russian deputy defense minister has been charged with taking a bribe, in Russia’s highest-profile corruption scandal since President Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago.

Timur Ivanov is suspected of accepting a bribe of 1 million rubles (at least $10,800), Russian state media TASS reported.

He appeared in a Moscow court Wednesday, dressed in full military garb as he stood in a glass cage, and was accused of receiving a bribe as part of an organized group while performing contracted work for the Defense Ministry. If convicted, he faces 15 years in prison.

Ivanov, who has been in his post since 2016, is seen as a senior architect of Russia’s war in Ukraine and a close ally of Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu.

The unexpected arrest of an ally of Shoigu may again put pressure on the defense minister, who has been criticized for his handling of the invasion of Ukraine – most forcefully by the Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin in the months before his death last year. Despite setbacks, Shoigu has been kept in his post by Putin.

Ivanov’s responsibilities have included the reconstruction of Mairupol, a city in southern Ukraine reduced to ruin by Russian forces in a months-long siege at the outset of the war. The minister has frequently been seen cutting ribbons on various construction projects in the city – as Russia attempts to put a Potemkin facade on the city it destroyed.

His lavish lifestyle has earned him a reputation inside Russia and, with it, the scrutiny of the late Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation (ACF). Maria Pevchikh, chair of the foundation, said Ivanov had “one of the most lucrative jobs that one can have” in Russia’s Defense Ministry, and claimed the invasion of Ukraine has made him far richer.

Ivanov was sanctioned by the European Union and United States after Russia invaded Ukraine.

But his ex-wife, Svetlana Maniovich, has continued to live a life of European opulence: yachting on the Mediterranean, skiing in the Alps and living in Paris.

In an investigation last year, the ACF assembled a picture of a woman who has seemingly escaped all scrutiny for Ivanov’s role in Ukraine, and the extreme profits he is alleged to have reaped. Drawing on a trove of 8,000 leaked emails, the investigation claimed that Maniovich spent more than $100,000 in a top Paris jewlry store on the famed Place Vendrome in March 2022, while the siege of Mariupol was tightening.

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