NewsPutin's defense shakeup: Corruption arrests and Prigozhin's influence

Putin's defense shakeup: Corruption arrests and Prigozhin's influence

According to commentators, the last wish of "Putin's chef" is being fulfilled.
According to commentators, the last wish of "Putin's chef" is being fulfilled.
Images source: © PAP

8:09 AM EDT, June 3, 2024

Arrests on corruption charges in the Russian Ministry of Defense, the demotion of Sergey Shoigu, and the arrests of high-ranking military officers have been the focus of the Kremlin in recent weeks. As CNN notes, the shadow of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the former head of the Wagner mercenary group, known in the past as "Putin's chef," looms over the turmoil.

Several important Russian Ministry of Defense officials have been arrested on corruption charges in recent weeks. Vladimir Putin removed Sergey Shoigu from his position as head of the Ministry of Defense after 12 years. The arrests also extend to high-ranking military officers. Yevgeny Prigozhin, "Putin's chef," who led a rebellion against Putin last year, called for an anti-corruption fight in these circles, writes TVN24, citing CNN's article.

Corruption in the Russian Ministry of Defense

According to analysts, the Russian defense ministry is among the most corrupt. Russian state media have repeatedly revealed questionable military contracts made by the ministry involving staggering sums.

Even before Shoigu's dismissal, one of his deputies, Timur Ivanov, was arrested. Another high-ranking ministry official, Yuri Kuznetsov, was also detained on corruption charges. At the end of May, the deputy chief of the Russian army's general staff, Gen. Vadim Shamarin, was arrested. Ivan Popov, considered by independent commentators to be one of the most competent Russian generals, is suspected of committing large-scale fraud.

Prigozhin's spirit over the Kremlin

CNN notes that the spirit of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the former head of the Wagner mercenary group, looms over this turmoil.

Recall that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, demanded the removal of Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, who - he claims - tried to "eliminate the Wagner Group." Last year, Prigozhin called for a coup and marched on Moscow.

Earlier, he repeatedly accused them of corruption and incompetence. In response, Putin labeled Prigozhin a traitor and stripped him of his assets. Later, Prigozhin died in a plane crash along with his top advisors.

Vladimir Putin was aware of the irregularities related to arms procurement contracts made by the Ministry of Defense but concealed them from the public. According to CNN, he wanted to show that he would not take the actions expected of him by Prigozhin, as it might undermine his authority and strength in the eyes of the citizens.

Why did this change? According to commentators, the Russian leader likely waited to act against the ministry's leadership until after the March presidential elections he organized to consolidate his power. This happened, so the changes began shortly after the Victory Day celebrations on May 9.

Shoigu's demotion, Gerasimov next?

Amid Putin's radical changes, rumors have surfaced that Valery Gerasimov, the chief of the general staff, is also at risk, something Prigozhin also demanded.

- There are now many rumors that he, Gerasimov, may soon be dismissed - Tatiana Stanovaya, a Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center specialist, told CNN. In her opinion, the fact that he has been spared so far "gives Gerasimov a window to start fighting for his own interests."

Analysts point out that Gerasimov should keep his position for now, as Putin announced that he does not intend to make further personnel changes.

Additionally, there is no equivalent position to Shoigu's that he could be moved to without completely tarnishing his reputation.

Many of the reports provided by Russian state media or Kremlin officials are likely not true. Such reports may be part of an information war by the Russian Federation.

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