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Russia's defense scandal grows with arrest of new bribery suspect

The head of personnel at Russia's Defense Ministry was arrested on suspicion of bribery after more than $1 million in cash and valuables were discovered on his property, investigators said Tuesday.

Yuri Kuznetsov's arrest signals a widening of the biggest government corruption scandal in years, two days after President Vladimir Putin unexpectedly removed Sergei Shoigu as defense minister.

The State Investigative Committee said Kuznetsov was suspected of “receiving a bribe on an especially large scale.”

“According to the investigation, in 2021-2023, as head of the 8th Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Russia, Kuznetsov received bribes from representatives of commercial structures to carry out certain actions in his favor,” the committee said.

At least five people have been arrested in the scandal, starting with the detention of deputy minister Timur Ivanov on the same charge on April 23.

Shoigu was unexpectedly removed from his post on Sunday (12) and assigned a new role as secretary of the Russian Security Council. He will be replaced by Andrei Belousov, an economist and former deputy prime minister.

The appointment of Belousov, who has no military background, is seen by analysts as part of a strategy to improve the efficiency of Russia's war economy as its army seeks to advance further into Ukraine in the third year of the war.

Judging by the arrests, the strategy includes eliminating corruption in the awarding of large military contracts.

According to unconfirmed reports from two influential Russian war bloggers, two more deputy defense ministers had resigned before Shoigu's departure.

Money, gold and watches

Investigators said searches of Kuznetsov's properties turned up the equivalent of more than $1 million in rubles and foreign currency, as well as gold coins, watches and luxury items.

Kuznetsov could not be reached for comment. The charges against him and Ivanov, the former deputy minister, carry a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Ivanov denies accusations that he received bribes worth $11 million in the form of real estate services from a construction company in exchange for contracts.

Last week, a Moscow court rejected appeals by Ivanov and his friend Sergei Borodin, who is also accused of conspiring to accept bribes, against their detention.

Source: CNN Brasil

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