As Russian President Vladimir Putin reshuffles the Ministry of Defense, corruption scandals begin to pile up in Russia’s military elite. Yesterday, Thursday, the arrests of Lieutenant General Vadim Xamarin, one of the second in command of the Chief of Staff of the Army, Valery Guerassimov, and the head of procurement at the Ministry of Defense, Vladimir Verteletsky, were announced. Already five high-ranking Defense and army officials have been imprisoned in one month.

The Kremlin denied yesterday that a “campaign” of purges against senior army officers is underway. Dmitri Peskov, head of press for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said it is simply the effects of the fight against corruption, a process that is always underway.

“The fight against corruption is an ongoing job, not a campaign” of purges, Peskov assured reporters. “It is part of the action of our law enforcement forces”, he added, assuring that the fight against corruption is carried out in all ministries.

The announcement of the arrest of Xamarin, also head of the army’s Communications Directorate, was made by the military court of garrison number 235. This had ordered a two-month provisional prison for the general on Wednesday after being accused of receive large bribes. The Russian Criminal Code foresees for this crime committed by an official punishments of eight to fifteen years in prison.

According to the investigation, he accepted 36 million rubles (366,000 euros) from the Telta phone factory, located in Perm (Urals), in exchange for inflating orders from the Ministry of Defense. The director and the head of accounting of the company are also arrested.

Hours later, the local press learned of the arrest of another employee of the Ministry of Defence, Vladímir Verteletski, as a result of another different case of corruption. In charge of the purchasing department, the investigators clarified that in 2022 he had approved incomplete work that caused losses to the State of 70 million rubles (710,000 euros). The deSHOT channel says that he gave state orders to several businessmen in exchange for a car and a house that he put in the name of relatives.

In the last month, the Investigative Committee, which investigates the most serious crimes, and military judges have ordered the arrest and provisional imprisonment of important positions in Russia’s military leadership. These scandals take place in the midst of a reshaping of the Ministry of Defence. A few days after assuming the presidency of Russia for the fifth time, Putin made some changes to the Government and as a surprise removed from the Executive one of his main allies and, moreover, a friend. He dismissed Serguei Xoigu as Minister of Defense and put in charge the economist without military experience Andrei Beloussov. And on Monday, Putin replaced Deputy Minister Yuri Sadovenko with Oleg Savéliev, until now an auditor at the Audit Court.

The certainty in the Kremlin that the war against Ukraine will be long has conditioned, according to observers, these changes. The time has come to bet on the optimization of expenditure and technological innovation. Technocrats replace generals to try to win on the battlefield.

Among those arrested at the top of the military in the last month is the Deputy Minister of Defence, Timur Ivanov. His proximity to Xoigú raised speculation about whether the Kremlin had decided to punish him. But the future that Putin has reserved for him indicates otherwise. Shoigu was appointed secretary of Russia’s powerful Security Council.

Ivanov was arrested at the end of April, accused of accepting a bribe of 1,185 million rubles (12 million euros). According to the investigation, he would have helped several MoD contractor companies, and they would have carried out free construction and repair work on his properties.

Shortly after Xoigu’s departure, on May 14, the arrest of Lieutenant General Yuri Kuznetsov, the ministry’s chief of staff, became known. He is accused of receiving 30.5 million rubles (310,000 euros) in bribes from businessman Lev Martirosian, also detained, who between 2021 and 2023 the general would have helped sign state contracts and contracts with a military school in Krasnodar ( southern Russia).

This same week the commander general Ivan Popov was also arrested for fraud. Until July 2023, he led the 58th Army of the Russian Combined Forces, which was fighting in Ukraine.

Corruption in the military sector, condoned in peacetime, cannot be overlooked at a time when Russia has put its economy on war footing to increase its state defense budget by 70% this year.

Corruption was precisely the most important of the sometimes ferocious accusations made against the Russian military leadership by the head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, for months. The leader of this army of mercenaries died in a plane crash in August 2023, two months after leading an armed rebellion in which he called for the arrest of Shoigu and Gerassimov, who in any case have not been “purged”.

The latter remains at the head of the Army General Staff. Putin said last week that he would not make changes to the General Staff because “combat tasks” are being successfully completed. The ex-minister, for his part, in addition to being the secretary of the Security Council, supervises the production of ammunition, weapons and military equipment from the vice presidency of the Russian military-industrial complex.