Russian Colonel Alexander Denisov - in charge of providing technical support for the armored vehicles of the Russian Southern Military District - was arrested in March and charged with stealing seven V-92S2 engines from T-90 battle tanks entrusted to his care, according to Moscow’s ‘Kommersant’ newspaper.
This is just the latest example of the corruption that many analysts attribute, along with poor leadership, to exacerbating the poor overall performance of Russian forces during the full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Commentators have been reporting for decades that corruption was endemic within its defense industrial sector and armed forces, at every level from the Kremlin down to the lowliest foot soldier.
A 2005 report by the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment quoted reports from the Russian Audit Chamber Chairman that in the pre-Putin days as much as 21 percent of the military budget was lost, mainly by the theft of equipment. After Putin took over it was estimated that as much as 50 percent of the funds allocated to Russia’s Defense budget was simply stolen.
Ruslan Pukhov of the Moscow-based Center for the Analysis of Strategy and Technology gave the example that in 2004 Russian foreign defense sales raised approximately $5.5 billion of which, he estimated less than 20 percent made its way back into the budget.
Notable cases of Russian corruption were seen throughout the 1990s, including the Russian general dismissed for selling UN fuel while deployed to Kosovo and reports of Russian soldiers deployed to Chechnya selling their weapons to Chechen fighters.
Transparency International’s Government Defense Integrity Index for 2020 assessed Russia’s defense sector as being at high risk of corruption, due to the limited oversight of defense budgets and high levels of opacity in defense procurement.
It made reference to reports that money that was meant to bribe Ukrainians to support the invasion had been ‘diverted’ before it even left Russia. Russian soldiers on the front line were provided with ration packs seven years out of date, while thousands of packs were available for sale on eBay and other websites.
The families of Russian conscripts, destined for the front line, were seen to be crowdsourcing for boots, winter clothing, medical equipment, thermal imagers, sleeping bags, and body armor for troops not properly equipped for combat.
The UK think tank, the Royal United Services Institute reported that much of the body armor purchased by the families, on Avito (Russia’s eBay) were actually of the Ratnik system that had been sidetracked from the 200,000 sets that had supposedly been delivered to the military by 2017. The Ratnik armor cost the Russian MoD around $3,500 a set and was being sold for around $600 on Avito.
Columns of vehicles heading towards Kyiv on the first days of the February 2022 invasion ran out of fuel, it was reported, primarily because fuel had been sold on the black market in Belarus before the logistic tankers deployed.
On inspecting Russian T-80 battle tanks, destroyed by Ukraine’s anti-tank weapons, Ukrainian troops discovered that the explosive reactive armor (ERA), a series of boxes supposedly filled with layers of metal, rubber and high explosives, had been hollowed out and the valuable explosives stolen - leaving the tanks vulnerable to attack.
The UK Ministry of Defence’s intelligence updates on Sept. 4 further supported this and flagged ‘corruption amongst commanders,’ with the “Russian military… consistently [failing] to provide basic entitlements to troops deployed in Ukraine… almost certainly contributing to the continued fragile morale of much of the force.”
The Head of Ukraine’s National Agency on Corruption Prevention of Ukraine (NACP) also last month expressed his “sincere gratitude” to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu – who is alleged to own property worth at least $18 million for the “invaluable contribution” Russian embezzlement had made to the defense of Ukraine.
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