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Putin removes Sergei Shoigu from Russian defence ministry

Russia: The Kremlin has announced the removal of long-standing ally Sergei Shoigu as defense minister, a role he held since 2012. Shoigu, aged 68, will be succeeded by Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov, an economist with limited military experience. Shoigu is set to assume the position of secretary of Russia’s Security Council.

This reshuffle marks a significant moment in Russian politics as changes at the top are rare. However, Vladimir Putin retains ultimate authority, having initiated the war in Ukraine and making key decisions. Due to his background, Belousov’s appointment as defense minister may surprise many, but analysts suggest that Putin aims to align the economy more closely with the war effort.

Rumors of Shoigu’s weakening position and potential dismissal had circulated in recent months, particularly after the arrest of one of his deputies on corruption charges. While Shoigu retains influence as Security Council secretary, the move signifies a demotion for him.

Shoigu, known for his close ties to Putin, previously served as head of the Emergencies and Disaster Relief Ministry. In 2023, he clashed publicly with Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin over Russia’s war conduct.

The decision to appoint an economist reflects the Kremlin’s changing priorities and the substantial funds allocated to the war in Ukraine, emphasizing the need for greater efficiency in the armed forces. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov stated that innovation is crucial for the defense minister’s role, as Russia’s military spending resembles that of the mid-1980s Soviet Union.

Belousov, described as a “hard-line defender of the state,” is aligned with Putin’s views and has ties to the Russian Orthodox Church. He brings a martial arts background and prior experience working as an aide to Putin. His appointment reflects Putin’s consolidation of power, reaffirmed by his recent election win and fifth-term inauguration.

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