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UK intel: Russian regime’s demand for loyalty over skills on display in general’s arrest

Arrest of allegedly competent Russian General Popov, who was earlier dismissed for criticizing the military leadership, will likely further dismay troops concerned about loyalty prioritized over skills, per UK intelligence.
uk intel russian regime's demand loyalty over skills display general's arrest army's major general ivan popov who dismissed summer 2023 arrested fraud charges russia may 2024 screenshot nts-tvcom russian-general-popov
Russian Army’s Major General Ivan Popov, who was dismissed in summer 2023 and arrested on fraud charges in Russia in May 2024. Screenshot: nts-tv.com.
UK intel: Russian regime’s demand for loyalty over skills on display in general’s arrest

Late last month, Russian authorities detained a former Russian army commander, Maj-Gen Ivan Popov, who voiced concerns about the country’s high military casualties in Ukraine on suspicion of committing large-scale fraud. He was dismissed as Russia’s 58th Combined Arms Army last year after criticizing the Russian military leadership.

In its intelligence update, the British Defense Ministry says Popov, considered a competent commander, was likely arrested as a punitive measure for perceived disloyalty, likely to dismay Russian military personnel and signal to senior commanders that loyalty to the regime is valued above competence.

The Ministry wrote:

  • On 21 May 2024, Russian media reported that General-Major Ivan Popov, former commander of the Russian 58th Combined Arms Army (CAA), had been arrested on charges of fraud and corruption related to the sale of military construction materials. Popov was dismissed from his post as commander of the 58th CAA (deployed to the Zaporizhzhia sector in Ukraine) in July 2023 after his private criticism about the competence of Russian defence leadership’s decisions relating to the conduct of the war were publicised. Popov subsequently criticised the decision to remove him publicly, describing it as “our senior commander hitting us from the rear, treacherously and ditty beheading the army at the most difficult and tense moment.”
  • In it system where corrupfion itself is endemic, its punishment is more often it political tool than an attempt to enforce good governance. There is a long history of the Russian regime using corruption charges, real or invented, to remove or punish internal critics or those who have angered more powerful elite figures. It is likely Popov’s arrest is a demonstrative punishment for his perceived disloyalty to his superiors.
  • As an army commander, Popov was generally regarded as highly competent and, according to Russian military commentators, was popular among Russian troops. His arrest is likely to further dismay Russian military personnel and reinforce to his peers in senior command positions that loyalty and obedience to the regime and one’s superiors is valued more highly than competence and charisma.

ISW: More Russian military leaders face corruption charges, dismissals

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