Yevgeny Prigozhin Finally Gets His Revenge From Beyond the Grave

Yulia Morozova/Reuters
Yulia Morozova/Reuters

Less than 24 hours after Vladimir Putin sent his defense minister packing after reportedly privately blaming him for failures in the war against Ukraine, another top Defense Ministry official was yanked out of bed by masked security forces.

Counterintelligence agents reportedly arrived armed to the teeth to detain Lieutenant-General Yury Kuznetsov, the head of the Defense Ministry’s personnel department, on bribery charges Monday. The Investigative Committee announced in a press release Tuesday that Kuznetsov is currently in pre-trial detention on large-scale bribery charges.

The charges against him, for the most part, remain unclear. Investigators say that from 2021 to 2023, while he was serving as head of the 8th Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Kuznetsov accepted a bribe from commercial enterprises in exchange for “performing certain actions in their favor.”

Sanctions Be Damned, Putin’s War Machine Is Still Powered by U.S. Parts

His arrest comes just a few weeks after Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov went down on bribery charges in what was widely seen as a major blow to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Shoigu was replaced by Putin on Sunday in a surprise move that sees him replaced by civilian economist Andrei Belousov. The Kremlin has explained the move by saying the country’s defense ministry must be “absolutely open to innovation” and Belousov fits that bill.

The Kremlin has insisted that Shoigu’s new post as head of the Security Council should not be seen as a step down, but Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, reported that Putin had lost faith in Shoigu’s ability to handle the war amid corruption in the Defense Ministry. Last year’s dramatic mutiny by Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was cited in the report as another likely reason for Shoigu’s dismissal.

In the wake of Kuznetsov’s arrest, Kremlin media has framed it as part of an “anti-corruption purge” in the Defense Ministry, with Belousov now tasked with cleaning up Shoigu’s mess. “A lot of money has come into the Defense Ministry, the budget has doubled as a result of the [war]. And as we saw with the arrest of Timur Ivanov, the situation with corruption goes beyond reasonable limits,” former Putin adviser Sergei Markov said in an interview Tuesday with Komsomolskaya Pravda.

In one fell swoop, it appears Shoigu’s legacy has been cemented as one of wartime corruption and incompetence, while at the same time, anyone fed up with the war against Ukraine dragging on into its third year can blame rampant corruption in the military instead of the Kremlin.

It’s no surprise that pro-war bloggers linked to Prigozhin were celebrating the news of Kuznetsov’s arrest Tuesday. Prigozhin had famously called for the ouster of Shoigu and everyone within his circle during his short-lived uprising against the military last June, just a month before he was killed in a fiery plane crash widely seen as an assassination.

“Straight into the fire,” wrote one Wagner-linked Telegram channel of the “sleazebags” Kuznetsov and Ivanov.

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