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Putin begins Defense Ministry purge amid rumors of leaked nuclear secrets

The dismissal of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and members of his team could be linked to a leak of nuclear secrets, an expert has claimed, as the purge of Vladimir Putin’s Defense Ministry continues.

In a post on Telegram, exiled Russian dissident Vladimir Osechkin said Putin’s purge of his Defense Ministry deepened on Tuesday, with three of Shoigu’s deputies revealing they resigned at least a week before their boss.

“Shoigu’s deputies (Alexei) Krivoruchko and (Rusland) Tsalikov submitted their resignations a week before (Shoigu’s),” he wrote.

Krivoruchko and Tsalikov, who were deputy defense ministers, backdated their resignations to May 9, according to Igor Sushko, executive director of the Wind of Change research group, although they signed their resignation letters on May 13.

Pro-war bloggers “Z” also said that two other vice defense ministers had resigned before Shoigu’s departure.

Meanwhile, Osechkin claimed that Deputy Finance Minister Tatiana Shevtsova had also resigned. However, the date of his resignation has not been revealed.

It comes after Shoigu, who had been one of Putin’s closest allies, was unexpectedly removed from his post on Sunday and assigned to a new role as secretary of the Russian Security Council. He is to be replaced by Andrei Belousov, economist and former deputy prime minister.

Although the exact reason for Shoigu’s dismissal is unknown, analysts believe the appointment of Belousov, who has no military experience, is part of Putin’s strategy to improve the efficiency of Russia’s war economy while that its army seeks to penetrate deeper into Ukraine. the third year of the war.

But it also came after one of the biggest government corruption scandals in years in Russia, with the Defense Ministry at the center.

Vladimir Putin and Sergei Shoigu
Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) speaks with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu (R) February 23, 2024 in Moscow, Russia. Shoigu was unexpectedly removed from his position over the weekend.

Contributor/Getty Images

Russian Defense Ministry personnel chief Yuri Kuznetsov was arrested last week on corruption charges after more than $1 million in cash and valuables were found at his properties.

Kuznetsov was suspected of “receiving a bribe on a particularly large scale,” according to the State Investigative Committee.

“According to the investigation, in 2021-2023, as head of the 8th Directorate of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Kuznetsov received a bribe from representatives of commercial structures for having accomplished certain actions in their favor,” the commission said.

At least five people have been arrested in connection with this scandal. These include Deputy Minister Timur Ivanov, who has been in pre-trial detention on corruption charges since April 23, after being accused of receiving bribes worth $11 million in the form real estate services from a construction company in exchange for contracts. Ivanov denies the accusations.

Meanwhile, two weeks before Shoigu’s dismissal, Igor Sushko, executive director of the Wind of Change research group, claimed that the former defense minister and his deputies, Ivanov and Tsalikov, had been accused of leaking nuclear secrets and could face charges of state treason. .

“The raids against Ivanov and his accomplices provided data on classified military projects, including nuclear facilities,” Sushko wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on April 28.

Osechkin also made the same allegations in a video posted the day before on YouTube. “In violation of all top secret protocols, Tsalikov and Ivanov provided access to secret documents on the Russian nuclear platform, among others, to people who did not have any level of security clearance,” he said. he assures.