Putin’s Top Defense Deputy Arrested for ‘High Treason’: Reports

Russia’s well-connected deputy defense minister Timur Ivanov faces accusations of treason it has been reported, following his arrest in the highest-profile corruption scandal in Russia for years.

Ivanov, 48, an official responsible for military infrastructure projects, appeared in his uniform behind a glass cage in Moscow’s Basmanny Court on Wednesday charged with bribe-taking “on a particularly large scale,” the court’s press service said. He could face 15 years in prison.

His arrest has sparked speculation about whether it might signal a purge among the Moscow elite, especially given his close relationship with defense minister Sergei Shoigu, and Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

The independent Russian news outlet Real Stories said that the true reason for Ivanov’s arrest was “high treason,” citing two sources close to the FSB.

 Timur Ivanov
This handout from Moscow’s Basmanny District Court from April 24, 2024, shows Russian deputy defense minister Timur Ivanov. He was detained on suspicion of bribery.

Getty Images

“A bribe is for the public. So far, they don’t want to talk publicly about treason—it’s a big scandal,” one source told the outlet. A second source said that Putin “gave the command after being convinced it was about treason,” adding that “no one would detain Ivanov for corruption.”

However, Ivanov’s lawyer, Murad Musayev, told state news agency RIA Novosti, that his client was not being accused of treason.

“There are no other accusations, except for the announced accusation of bribery,” he said.

Newsweek has contacted the court for comment.

Independent Russian media outlets have alleged that Ivanov and his family had acquired vast wealth through kickbacks on contracts he agreed at the ministry.

In December 2022, the anti-corruption organization, FBK, founded by the late Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, who died in custody in February, alleged that Ivanov and his family lived an opulent life abroad that included luxury cars, jewelry and expensive real estate.

Navalny’s team also said that Ivanov had profited from construction projects in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, which fell under Moscow’s control after a monthslong siege.

Deputy defense minister since 2016, Ivanov’s projects also included building military barracks, cadet corps, submarine bases and military airfields, as well as hospitals and kindergartens, it was reported.

“Timur Ivanov is a high-profile figure in Russia, and he’s been involved in many large projects, including several rebuilding efforts in Mariupol,” Pekka Kallioniemi, a postdoctoral researcher at Finland’s Tampere University, told Newsweek.

“It’s of course impossible to know the real reasons for his arrest but this could be related to the revelations made by Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation that showed Ivanov and his wife in a pretty bad light,” Kallioniemi said.

FBK alleged leaked emails from Ivanov’s wife, Svetlana Maniovich, showed the extent of her family’s lavish lifestyle, beyond what his official salary could cover, with some transactions routed through third parties, including Defense Ministry contractors.

“As the couple is also close friends with Dmitry Peskov, this is one of the highest profile arrests after Russia launched their full-scale invasion against Ukraine in February of 2022,” said Kallioniemi, whose series on social media, Vatnik Soup, exposed Russian propaganda.

When asked about the arrest, which took place only hours after Ivanov had met with Shoigu and other defense ministry officials, Peskov told reporters on Wednesday that there were “many different interpretations” of the case, state news agency Tass reported.

“All this speculation is nothing but speculation,” he said. “It is necessary to be guided by information from the investigative authorities. And, of course, in the end, the court’s decision.”

Ivanov has been remanded to Moscow’s Lefortovo pre-trial detention center until June 23.