Timur Ivanov
© AFP Provided by The TelegraphDespite never having served in the Russian army, Mr Ivanov appeared at the court in Moscow in full military uniform -
A top Russian defence official known for his lavish holidays to St Tropez appeared in court on Wednesday after being arrested on corruption charges.

Timur Ivanov, 49, is the deputy and long-time ally of Sergei Shoigu, the Russian defence minister, and oversaw major military construction projects for over a decade, including lucrative contacts to rebuild Mariupol, the Ukrainian city destroyed by the Russian army.

Despite never having served in the Russian army, a bespectacled Mr Ivanov appeared at the court in Moscow in full military uniform.

In an unusual move, the court's press office did not alert journalists to the hearing and did not allow anyone into the room, except for its own photographer.

Mr Ivanov was arrested for two months pending an investigation into alleged bribery from contractors bidding for work for the defence ministry, investigators said.

But the corruption allegations are actually a smoke-screen for treason charges against the official, two well-placed sources told Russia's well-respected iStories publication on Wednesday.

Comment: Could it not be both?

Vladimir Putin personally ordered Mr Ivanov's arrest after the security services showed the Russian president proof the minister was spying against Russia, one of the sources said.

The source added that "no one would have arrested" the official for mere bribery, which is endemic in Russia's defence establishment.

Comment: If that was true, Russia's output would be as pitiful as the West's, however, as it is: Russian arms production has Europe's warmongers worried

Open secret

The opulent, jet-setting lifestyle enjoyed by Mr Ivanov and his then wife, who are old friends of Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, has been an open secret in Russia for years.

But Mr Peskov, who has been pictured on holiday with the Ivanovs, on Wednesday dismissed the reports of treason charges against his friend as "speculation".

The Kremlin spokesman said he had no further information other than the investigators' statement accusing the official of bribery.

Allies of slain Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny in 2022 published a wide-ranging investigation, exposing the Ivanovs' lavish lifestyle.

The couple own an array of exclusive properties, including a 19th century mansion in central Moscow and a 9,500-ft country house and estate located between Moscow and St Petersburg.

The couple officially declared just over £1 million income in 2018, the last publicly available income declaration, with the deputy minister's government salary amounting to just ten per cent of this.

Leaked emails from Mr Ivanov's ex-wife showed that the couple spent €850,000 renting a villa in France's St Tropez every summer between 2010 and 2018. They also reportedly forked out €250,000 euros on yacht rentals, and spent another €200,000 on renting and servicing a Rolls Royce.

Mr Ivanov refused to respond to the allegations.

His ex-wife Svetlana Zakharova, who owns a flat in Paris, reportedly divorced him shortly after the invasion of Ukraine.

Russian investigative journalists believe that the divorce was filed purely for legal reasons, shielding Mrs Zakharova from sanctions.

Mr Ivanov was sanctioned by the US and the EU in October 2022.