Russia arrests another of its top generals in ‘corruption purge’

Lt Gen Shamarin wearing dress uniform
Lt Gen Shamarin is the fourth high-ranking official arrested in recent weeks - AP

Russia has arrested its deputy head of army staff, in a move that exposes Vladimir Putin’s deepening shake-up of the military.

Lieutenant General Vadim Shamarin was detained on suspicion of large-scale bribe-taking, state media reported on Thursday, the fourth high-ranking defence official accused of corruption in recent times.

On Thursday night Moscow announced it made its fifth arrest of a high-ranking defence official.

Vladimir Verteletsky, from the defence ministry’s department for ensuring state orders, “has been charged with the abuse of his official powers”, Moscow’s powerful Investigative Committee said in a statement, adding that he had been placed in pre-trial detention.

The arrest is part of a major effort to stamp out corruption surrounding the awarding of lucrative state contracts within the military, according to the state-run Tass news agency.

A military court official told Tass that Lt Gen Shamarin had been accused of accepting bribes “at an especially large scale” while a law enforcement source cited by the Kommersant daily newspaper said he was accused of unspecified “machinations”.

John Foreman, the former British defence attache in Moscow, said: “Until now, field generals got sacked when Moscow chateau generals didn’t. Now, the purge that has happened in the frontline army has started to creep into Moscow.”

The clean-up started with the arrest of Timur Ivanov, the deputy defence minister, who was placed in pre-trial detention for suspected bribe-taking.

Vladimir Putin,in a black suit and tie, with a guard soldier behind him in dress uniform, saluting
Putin has embarked on deep shake-up of his military - Yury Kochetkov/AP

Since then, Lieutenant General Yuri Kuznetsov, head of personnel at the defence ministry, and Major General Ivan Popov, former commander of Russia’s 58th army, have also been arrested.

It is alleged many of them received kick-backs on contracts handed out for the modernisation of the Russian military over the previous decade.

The purge also included the high-profile removal of Sergei Shoigu, the long-serving defence minister, who was replaced by Andrei Belousov, a civilian economist with no military experience.

The arrest came as Russian troops made some of their most significant gains in Ukraine for 18 months and launched a major new assault on the north-eastern Kharkiv region.

However, the Kremlin has denied speculation about a sweeping clean-up operation in the military.

“The fight against corruption is an ongoing effort. It is not a campaign. It is an integral part of the activities of law enforcement agencies,” spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday.

‘No option but to clamp down’

Mr Foreman said the Kremlin had been left with no option but to clamp down on the increasing corruption within the armed forces. He said: “Corruption was getting in the way of the war, it got to such levels of corruption and nepotism that something had to be done.

Putin is all-in to win this. Anything that gets in the way of him winning the war will be dealt with.”

The Kremlin’s purge, Mr Foreman believes, could one day be extended to Valery Gerasimov, the head of the Russian army’s general staff, and other officials loyal to the general.

He said there was already evidence that Gerasimov, who also commands the Russian invasion of Ukraine, could be sidelined when he mysteriously disappeared for seven weeks.

He vanished with other top Russian generals, including Admiral Viktor Sokolov, former commander of the Black Sea Fleet, sparking reports they had been killed or injured in Ukrainian strikes.