Sergei Shoigu: Putin replaces the Russian Defense Minister with a civilian as the Ukraine war rages and defense spending escalates

Sergei Shoigu: Putin replaces the Russian Defense Minister with a civilian as the Ukraine war rages and defense spending escalates



CNN

Russian President Vladimir Putin replaced his defense minister and close ally, Sergei Shoigu, with a civilian economist, in a major reshuffle of the military leadership more than two years after Moscow’s brutal war against Ukraine, which led to a rise in defense spending.

Andrei Belousov, a civilian who previously served as first deputy prime minister and an economics specialist, has been appointed to the top defense post, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday.

Peskov said that Shoigu was “removed” from his position by presidential decree, but he will remain an influential part of Putin’s administration as Secretary of the Russian Security Council, replacing former FSB chief Nikolai Patrushev, who will “move on to another job.”

Peskov said that Shoigu will also become a deputy in the Russian Military Industry Committee, at a time when Putin begins a military operation. Fifth state As president.

This change comes at a time when Russia has launched its most dangerous operations Cross-border ground attack Since Ukraine regained control of the northern Kharkiv region in the late summer of 2022. This also comes after several months of increased Russian air attacks on the city of Kharkiv and amid a major advance on Donetsk in the east which has seen gradual but significant progress.

Shoigu led the country’s Defense Ministry for 12 years and led the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Russian forces initially caught Kiev by surprise, but were quickly routed, exposing the weaknesses of Moscow’s corruption-plagued army and its willingness to send in waves of poorly trained soldiers. The soldiers were equipped with what Ukrainian and Russian forces called a “meat grinder.”

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His critics did Described often Shoigu is far and away from the reality of the conflict. His strongest critic was Wagner’s late boss Yevgeny Prigozhin He accused the Defense Ministry of starving his fighters of resources and bureaucratic inefficiency before launching a failed rebellion last year and being killed weeks later in a plane crash.

Rising military spending and the need for “innovation”

Putin chose Belousov because of the need for “innovation,” Peskov said in a press call, during which he highlighted the ministry’s growing budget, saying it was approaching levels last seen during the Cold War.

“Today on the battlefield, the winner is the one who is more open to innovation,” Peskov said. He added: “Therefore, it is natural at the current stage for the president to decide that a civilian will head the Russian Ministry of Defense.”

Referring to the war in Ukraine, Peskov said that due to “well-known geopolitical conditions, we are gradually approaching the situation of the mid-1980s when the share of the security bloc’s expenditures in the economy was 7.4%.” “It’s not critical, but it’s very important,” Peskov said.

He said that the budget currently amounts to 6.7% of the gross domestic product.

Peskov highlighted Belousov’s previous leadership experience and economic background.

“This is not just a civilian, but a person who very successfully headed the Ministry of Economic Development of Russia, was for a long time assistant to the president on economic issues, and was also first deputy head of the government in the previous Cabinet of Ministers,” Peskov said.

Peskov added that the new appointment does not indicate a shift in the current Russian military system.

As for the military component, this designation will in no way change the current coordinate systems. The military component has always been the prerogative of the Chief of the General Staff [Valery Gerasimov]And will continue its activities. He added that there are currently no changes expected in this regard.

Peskov said that Shoigu, in his new position, will supervise the Russian military-industrial complex.

“He is deeply immersed in this work, knows well the pace of production of military industrial products at certain enterprises, and often visits these enterprises,” he added.

This news comes on the heels of the arrest of the Deputy Defense Minister, one of Shoigu’s close allies, last month Timur IvanovWho was accused of receiving bribes in the largest corruption scandal the country has witnessed since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine more than two years ago.

Ivanov has been accused of accepting a bribe of 1 million rubles ($10,800 at least), according to Russian state media TASS.

Former US Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN in an interview on Sunday that Putin’s cabinet reshuffle is an “important” and “interesting” step.

“The biggest argument coming out of Moscow now is that Russia is moving toward a war economy,” he said. “They are at war.”

“One of the disappointing things about Shoigu’s tenure is that we thought the Russian military, at least during my time at the Pentagon, we thought they were professional, that they were modernizing all their equipment and their doctrine and how they trained and fought,” Esper said. And we didn’t really see that on the battlefield.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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