British Intelligence Retrieved Nuclear Secrets During Sergei Shoigu Tenure As Defense Minister Reason For His Sacking

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu rest after fishing during a mini-break in the Siberian Tyva region. Source: AAP

The firing of Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu and members of his team may be linked to a leak of nuclear secrets to British Intelligence, an expert has claimed, as Vladimir Putin’s Defense Ministry purge continues.

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

“Shoigu’s deputies [Alexey] Krivoruchko and [Rusland] Tsalikov submitted their resignations a week before [Shoigu]’s resignation,” he wrote.

Krivoruchko and Tsalikov, who were deputy defense ministers, backdated their resignations to May 9, according to Igor Sushko, the executive director of the Wind of Change Research Group, despite signing their letters of resignation on May 13.

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

Meanwhile, Osechkin claimed that deputy finance minister Tatyana Shevtsova had also resigned. However, the date of her resignation was not revealed.

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

While the exact reason for Shoigu’s sacking is unknown, it is thought by analysts that the appointment of Belousov, who has no military background, is part of Putin’s strategy to improve the efficiency of Russia’s war economy as its army seeks to push further into Ukraine in the third year of the war.

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

The head of personnel at Russia’s Defense Ministry, Yuri Kuznetsov, was arrested on suspicion of bribery last week after more than $1 million in cash and valuables were discovered at his properties.

Kuznetsov was suspected of “receiving a bribe on an especially large scale,” according to the state investigative committee.

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

At least five people have been arrested in the scandal. These include deputy minister Timur Ivanov who has been in pre-trial detention on bribery charges since April 23, after he was accused of receiving bribes worth $11 million in the form of property services from a construction company in return for contracts. Ivanov denies the charges.

Meanwhile, two weeks before Shoigu’s sacking, Igor Sushko, the 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 be facing state treason charges.

“Raids on Ivanov & accomplices yielded data on classified military projects including nuclear installations,” Sushko wrote in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, on April 28.

Osechkin also made the same allegations in a video posted to YouTube the day before. “In contravention of all top secret protocols, Tsalikov and Ivanov provided access to secret documents about Russia’s nuclear shelf, among other things, to persons who did not have any level of security clearance,” he alleged.

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