Russian ex-minister says invasion of Ukraine is stalling because officials stole from military budget for 'mega-yachts in Cyprus'

abandoned Russian vehicle
A member of Ukraine's Territorial Defense Forces outside Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-biggest city, on Monday.SERGEY BOBOK/AFP via Getty Images
  • Andrey Kozyrev, a former foreign minister, laid out reasons Putin may have misjudged his invasion.

  • He claimed Putin had overestimated Russia's military, not realizing its budget had been embezzled.

  • Russia's invasion of Ukraine has been met with tough Ukrainian resistance.

A former Russian foreign minister claimed that widespread corruption was among the reasons for the Russian military's apparently poor performance in the invasion of Ukraine.

In a Twitter thread over the weekend, Andrey Kozyrev, who served as the foreign minister under President Boris Yeltsin in the 1990s, put forward what he said were misjudgments by President Vladimir Putin in ordering the invasion.

He suggested Putin had overestimated the Russian military — while Putin has dedicated billions of dollars to modernizing Russia's forces, this money, Kozyrev claimed, may have been lost to endemic corruption.

"The Kremlin spent the last 20 years trying to modernize its military. Much of that budget was stolen and spent on mega-yachts in Cyprus. But as a military advisor you cannot report that to the President. So they reported lies to him instead," Kozyrev wrote.

Cyprus has long been a favored destination for Russian officials seeking to launder money, and it was infamous for its "golden passport" scheme that until 2020 allowed rich foreigners to effectively buy European Union citizenship.

Transparency International has ranked Russia as one of the most corrupt countries, identifying a particular problem in its defense sector.

Polina Beliakova, an expert at Tufts University, wrote in Politico this week that rampant corruption meant Russian troops were going into battle in Ukraine with out-of-date rations, faulty equipment, and inadequate fuel supplies.

Western officials have said Putin expected the invasion of Ukraine to be swift. But the capital, Kyiv, is still in Ukrainian control, Russia has failed to establish air superiority, and casualties have mounted amid stiff Ukrainian resistance.

Kozyrev appeared to be reacting to speculation about Putin's state of mind before launching the invasion.

Some officials and commentators have suggested that there was no rational explanation for the invasion and that Putin's judgment may have been hampered by his long self-imposed isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Others wondered whether he was unhinged enough to launch nuclear weapons if cornered.

But Kozyrev, whose stint as foreign secretary came as Russia sought closer ties with the West after the collapse of the Soviet Union, said he believes Putin is a rational decision-maker whose poor assumptions led him into an error.

He said that Putin likely believed his own propaganda about Ukraine's nationhood, which Putin highlighted when seeking to justify the invasion.

Kozyrev also said Putin had underestimated the unity of the West, which responded to the attack with sanctions that have been crippling the Russian economy.

"So, in my opinion, he is rational. Given that he is rational, I strongly believe he will not intentionally use nuclear weapons against the West," Kozyrev said.

Read the original article on Business Insider