Second Russian defense official replaced in Cabinet shakeup

 May 15, 2024

Just days after Russian President Vladimir Putin replaced Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, the ministry's chief of the main personnel directorate Lt. Gen. Yury Kuznetsov was arrested in a raid on his home in Moscow early Monday.

Kuznetsov was accused of accepting an “exceptionally large bribe” in his previous position as head of the military General Staff’s directorate in charge of preserving state secrets. A conviction could carry a 15-year prison sentence.

He is being detained pending an investigation and trial on the charges.

Agents of the Federal Security Service broke down Kuznetsov's door and windows while he was asleep.

Cabinet reshuffled

He allegedly had $1 million in cash, gold coins, and other luxury items in his possession.

His wife, who also worked for the Defense ministry, was also interrogated.

The move follows a reshuffling of Putin's cabinet to start off his second term. Shoigu was replaced by Andrei Belousov after 11 years as defense minister, while Shoigu replaced Nikolai Patrushev as the secretary of Russia’s Security Council, similar to the U.S. national security adviser.

Patrushev became a presidential aide along with Alexei Dyumin, who is considered a likely successor to Putin.

Not a demotion

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that Shoigu's new position was not a demotion, but a “very senior job with broad responsibilities.”

Shoigu’s deputy, Timur Ivanov, was also arrested last month on bribery charges and remains in custody while an investigation is conducted.

Belousov spoke to Parliament Tuesday, saying that Putin has tasked him with making military spending more optimized and efficient, bringing it in line with the rest of the Russian economy.

“It’s not an easy task, it’s comprehensive and primarily implies optimization of military spending,” he said. “First and foremost, optimization means increasing efficiency.”

The shakeup may be a response to rapidly increasing military spending amid allegations of widespread corruption among military leadership.

Shoigu had been accused by military bloggers of hiding setbacks in the war on Ukraine from Putin, which Belousov vowed not to do during his tenure. "It’s possible to make mistakes but it’s inadmissible to lie,” he said.

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