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“He knew exactly where to take a bite”: Why was Russian Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov so confident he wouldn't face consequences?

The Russian Ministry of Defense website no longer features the page of recently arrested Deputy Minister Timur Ivanov. Once a prominent figure in Moscow's social scene, Ivanov's name is now conspicuously absent from conversations among colleagues and former associates. The Insider's sources suggest that Ivanov did not hide his ostentatious lifestyle due to the — false, apparently — belief that both Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov would come to his defense if necessary.

  • Crisis manager

  • Ministry of Defense career: a series of corruption scandals

  • Thieves and overseers


Crisis manager

According to The Insider's source within the Russian Ministry of Defense, Timur Ivanov found his way onto Sergey Shoigu's team thanks to Ruslan Tsalikov, now the country’s first deputy defense minister. In 2012, during Shoigu's tenure as head of the Moscow Region, Tsalikov was serving as his once-and-current boss as vice-governor.

“Shoigu and Tsalikov came from the Emergencies Ministry, where their focus and budgeting were vastly different. They lacked expertise in economics, but were faced with the daunting task of managing a region burdened with multi-billion [ruble] debts and widespread protest. They needed sharp minds capable of handling complex economic matters. Additionally, Tsalikov's age prevented him from frequent site visits.

Some of the people were recommended by Valentina Matviyenko, while others were recruited through various channels. Then came Timur Ivanov, a graduate of Moscow State University's Faculty of Computational Mathematics. Ivanov excelled in mental arithmetic and had a keen sense for seizing opportunities. Moreover, he had a knack for earning the trust of his superiors by playing the role of a diligent son.”

Before joining Shoigu's team, Ivanov was closely associated with the Minister of Energy, Sergey Shmatko, earning the nickname “Crisis Manager” due to his frequent handling of problematic issues. Shmatko had intended to appoint Ivanov as his deputy, but opposition from other deputies forced Ivanov out of the ministry. Sources familiar with Ivanov's circle suggest that he was introduced to Tsalikov by the infamous millionaire Vyacheslav Aminov, who was involved in a high-profile case involving an attempted bribe of current Security Council head and long-time Putin confidante Nikolai Patrushev. Aminov was initially sentenced to one and a half years probation, which was later reduced to one year. “Timur always left the table when Vyacheslav Markovich (Aminov) entered his office and, like a boy, sat next to him,” a source who worked in the millionaire's security detail told The Insider. Aminov amassed his wealth from oil transportation by rail. He currently serves as the vice president of the Russian Olympic Committee and is a member of the supervisory board of the Central Sports Club of the Army, which falls under the authority of the Ministry of Defense.

Initially, the newcomer was closely observed and given small tasks to handle. Gradually, he was assigned the responsibility of managing media affairs, skillfully protecting Shoigu and his deputies from potentially negative coverage. When Ivanov eventually seized energy company Mosoblgaz from a team assembled by ex-Governor Boris Gromov and successfully resolved several challenging construction projects, he solidified his position within Shoigu's inner circle. Subsequently, Ivanov moved with Shoigu to the Ministry of Defense.

Timur Ivanov (center)
Timur Ivanov (center)

Ministry of Defense career: a series of corruption scandals

Within the MoD, Ivanov oversaw the Department of Construction, the Department of Planning and Coordination of Troop Support, the Department of Housing Provision and Housing Stock Management, the Department of Military Property, the Ministry of Defense's State Experts Directorate, the Chief Military Medical Directorate, and Rosvoenipoteka (the federal directorate for the housing savings and mortgage loans system intended for military servicemen). In essence, he oversaw everything except for troop operations and military equipment and weapons procurement.

Incidentally, in 2022, the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office submitted a report addressed to Shoigu following an examination of military construction projects. Prosecutors found that in the Ministry of Defense's construction department, which fell under Ivanov's supervision, deadlines for over 1,500 contracts (83% of the total) were missed. Despite court orders for contractors to reimburse 186 billion rubles to the Ministry of Defense, only 1.3 billion rubles were recovered within the first year.

Furthermore, it was discovered that the majority of firms contracted were either shell companies or had no assets. Prosecutors recommended the dismissal of General Marina Balakireva, the head of the Ministry of Defense's construction department, but she remains in her position to this day. Her last financial disclosure statement was published in 2021, revealing that four apartments and a piece of land belong to Balakierva and her husband.

Thieves and overseers

Making a stellar military career in Moscow is nearly impossible without the covert help of military counterintelligence, a fact dating back to Soviet times. Currently, the network of agents within the Department of Military Counterintelligence (DVKR) of the FSB effectively permeates the Ministry of Defense — many of its informants were recruited during their period of military education.

According to The Insider's source, military intelligence began receiving signals about Ivanov and his subordinates as early as 2014. However, these reports were consistently blocked at the level of the then-chief of DVKR, Lieutenant General Alexander Bezverkhny, to whom all information concerning Shoigu's team was directed. “Of course, many generals run to their handlers and inform on each other. In the Ministry of Defense, this is considered normal practice, as otherwise there would be no prospects for advancement,” another source told The Insider. “There were rumors that Ivanov helped Bezverkhny renovate his dacha near Moscow.”

According to the Moscow region real estate registry, Bezverkhny's spouse is listed as the owner of a two-story mansion (670 square meters) and a plot of land totaling 2,970 square meters in the elite Gorki-2 village in the Odintsovo district. This real estate is valued at approximately 150 million rubles ($1.64 million). However, no evidence has been found to confirm that Ivanov assisted his handler with renovations on the mansion.

Still, Ivanov never refused requests from the FSB to accommodate various intelligence officers within his ranks. For instance, in 2017, he appointed Mikhail Sapunov, a former member of the FSB's First Service, as the director of the Department of Property Relations (DIO). It was hoped that Sapunov would finally bring order to the thoroughly corrupt department. However, shortly after Sapunov took office, his deputy, Andrey Nezhigay, was arrested for bribery.

In 2015, Bezverkhny was transferred from the DVKR to the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Defense, and Nikolay Yuryev was appointed in his place. Since then, files containing compromising information on Shoigu's team have found their way into Yuryev's possession. Interestingly, General Yuryev never misses a Ministry of Defense office party and attentively listens in on conversations, observing who drinks how much. He is also well acquainted with Ivanov. “They were usually seated at neighboring tables, but they would exchange friendly smiles and there was a semblance of mutual affection,” one participant in the generals' social events revealed.

General Nikolai Yuryev (center)
General Nikolai Yuryev (center)

“Ivanov's acquaintances in the FSB warned him that General Yuryev was ordering surveillance on him, but he just smirked,” said a close friend of Ivanov's, now residing in Israel. “He was confident in Shoigu's support and boasted that he visited Peskov's office even more frequently than the minister's.” Ivanov had reason to believe Yuryev would not become a principled fighter against corruption, considering the numerous questions surrounding Yuryev himself in that regard. As far back as 2020, The Insider published an investigation into Yuryev's daughter, Alexandra, who, despite her unprofitable business, lives in a $1.2 million apartment and frequently changes luxury cars.

The Investigative Committee has already interrogated Ivanov's “benefactor” Ruslan Tsalikov. Most likely, there will also be questions for Vyacheslav Aminov from the CSKA, and for Alexander Ter-Avanesov, who at Ivanov's request was appointed VTB Bank's top manager overseeing financing for certain military projects. Meanwhile, speculation is rife within the Ministry of Defense about who Putin will appoint to replace the arrested chief construction manager — and how long that replacement will last in the position, given the systemic corruption issues.

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