Putin Removes Long-Standing Ally Shoigu as Defense Minister

The Kremlin has made a significant announcement, revealing that Russian President Vladimir Putin has made changes to his inner circle by removing long-standing ally Sergei Shoigu from his role as defence minister. Shoigu, who has served in the position since 2012, will now assume the role of secretary of Russia’s Security Council.

According to documents released by the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, Shoigu’s successor will be Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov. The Kremlin emphasized the need for the defense ministry to maintain its innovative edge, suggesting a strategic shift in leadership.

In another move, Putin has indicated his intention for Shoigu to succeed Nikolai Patrushev on the powerful Security Council. However, Patrushev’s new role has yet to be clarified, leaving room for speculation about the dynamics within Putin’s administration.

Sergei Shoigu, known for his close relationship with President Putin and their shared fishing excursions in his native Siberia, has been a prominent figure in Russian politics. Despite lacking a military background, he was appointed as defense minister, a move that raised eyebrows among some military officials.

Originally trained as a civil engineer, Shoigu gained prominence in the 1990s as the head of the emergencies and disaster relief ministry. However, his tenure as defense minister has been marked by challenges, particularly following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over two years ago.

According to BBC Europe analyst Danny Aeberhard, Shoigu has often appeared out of his depth in his role as defense minister, especially in handling the complexities of Russia’s military actions.

AFP Vladimir Putin (left), accompanied by Sergei Shoigu, guides a boat in the remote Tuva region in southern Siberia, August 2017
Vladimir Putin and Sergei Shoigu used to go fishing together in less troubled times

In 2023, Sergei Shoigu found himself entangled in a public dispute with Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group, over Russia’s handling of the conflict. Prigozhin, who led a brief rebellion against Moscow, publicly criticized Shoigu, labeling him a “dirtbag” and an “elderly clown” in widely circulated audio messages.

The feud took a tragic turn when Prigozhin died in a plane crash while en route from St. Petersburg to Moscow in August 2023. The Kremlin denied any involvement in the incident.

The unexpected nomination of Andrei Belousov as Shoigu’s potential successor has raised eyebrows, given Belousov’s background as an economist with minimal military experience. However, some analysts interpret this move as a signal from President Putin to align the Russian economy more closely with wartime priorities.


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