Russian deputy defense minister dismissed after arrest on corruption charges

A Russian deputy defense minister has been charged with taking a bribe, in the country’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 will be held in custody in a pre-trial detention center until at least June 23, Moscow’s court wrote on Telegram. His lawyer, Denis Baluyev, said he is appealing the case and requested that Ivanov be put under house arrest instead, according to Russian state media RIA Novosti.

He was later dismissed from his position in the defense ministry, state media TASS reported, citing a source in the ministry.

The scandal widened in the days after Ivanov’s arrest on Tuesday, with two other men detained.

Alexander Fomin, the owner of Russian construction company Olimpsitistroy, was arrested Thursday on suspicion of providing the bribe to Ivanov, Moscow City Courts press service said. The city’s Basmanny Court handed him a detention period of one month and 30 days.

Businessmen Sergey Borodin was also arrested, on suspicion of complicity in accepting the bribe, on Wednesday. He was sentenced to a two-month detention period, the court service said.

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. Ivanov is still listed on the Defense Ministry website as a serving minister, and there are no reports of him being dismissed.

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.

Russian investigative journalist Andrey Soldatov told CNN this aligns with a “tactic” used by the FSB, Russia’s security service, where it arrests a high-ranking official in order to crack down on rule-breaking in the ministry, agency or organization as a whole.

“Now that deputy will be extensively interrogated, not only about himself, and is supposed to provide incriminating evidence… on big shots of the organization,” Soldatov said.

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.

Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov is seen with his ex-wife Svetlana Maniovich, in an image from Maniovich's Instagram. - Zakharova Sveta/Instagram
Russia's Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov is seen with his ex-wife Svetlana Maniovich, in an image from Maniovich's Instagram. - Zakharova Sveta/Instagram

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.

Last year, Pevchikh told CNN that Ivanov’s wealth – with assets including a historic house in one of Moscow’s most expensive districts – is funded by corruption. Russia’s Defense Ministry did not respond to CNN’s request for comment.

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.

CNN’s Clarissa Ward, Mick Krever, Clare Sebastian and Niamh Kennedy contributed reporting.

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