Putin replaces longtime Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as Ukraine war heats into third year

Russian President Vladimir Putin replaced his longtime defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, in a cabinet reshuffle on Sunday. Putin is beginning his fifth term as president. And as its war against neighboring Ukraine grinds into its third year. In accordance with Russian law, the entire Russian cabinet resigned on Tuesday following Putin's grand inauguration for a new term in the Kremlin.

Most cabinet members were expected to keep their jobs, but Shoigu's fate appeared uncertain.

Putin signed a decree on Sunday appointing Shoigu as secretary of Russia's Security Council, the Kremlin said. The appointment, widely seen as a demotion, was announced shortly after Putin proposed Andrei Belousov, an economist, as the country's new defense chief.

In this poll photo distributed by Russian state agency Sputnik, Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during a Victory Day military parade on Red Square in central Moscow on May 9, 2024.

Mikhail Klementiou/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The announcement of Shoigu's new role came as 13 people were reported dead and more than 20 injured in the Russian border city of Belgorod, where a 10-story apartment building partially collapsed after Russian officials said That was Ukrainian shelling. Ukraine has not commented on the incident.

Belousov's candidacy would require approval from the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, but Putin's will has rarely, if ever, been challenged by the council or any other government body in Russia.

The announcement came as thousands more civilians fled the one. Renewed Russian ground attack in Ukraine's northeast, which has seen towns and villages hammered by a barrage of artillery and mortar fire.

Fierce fighting has forced at least one Ukrainian unit to retreat to the Kharkiv region, surrendering to Russian forces in less-defended settlements along Russia's western border.

Map of Ukraine and Neighbors
A map shows major cities in Ukraine – including Crimea and other Russian-held eastern regions of the country.

Getty/iStock Photo

By Sunday afternoon, the town of Vochansk, the largest town in the northeast, with a pre-war population of 17,000, emerged as a focal point in the battle. Kharkiv regional police chief Volodymyr Tymushk said Russian forces were on the outskirts of the town and approaching from three directions.

“There is already an infantry fight,” he said.

Tymoshko said a Russian tank was spotted along a major road leading into the town, reflecting Moscow's confidence in deploying heavy weapons.

An Associated Press team stationed in a nearby village saw plumes of smoke rising from the town as Russian forces fired shells. Evacuation teams worked non-stop throughout the day to pull residents, most of them elderly, out of harm's way.

At least 4,000 civilians have fled the Kharkiv region since Moscow's forces launched the operation on Friday, Gov. Oleh Senyhobov said in a statement on social media. He said there was heavy fighting along the northeastern front on Sunday, where Russian forces attacked 27 settlements in the past 24 hours.

Analysts say the Russian push is designed to take advantage of ammunition shortages before promised Western supplies reach the front lines.

Ukraine's military has said the Kremlin is using the usual Russian tactic of launching a disproportionate amount of firepower and launching infantry attacks to wear down its troops. Intensifying fighting on what was previously a stable patch of the 600-mile front line, Russian forces have threatened to reduce Ukrainian troops in the northeast while waging heavy fighting in the south, where Moscow is also gaining ground. doing.

It comes after Russia stepped up attacks in March. Targeting energy infrastructure and settlementswhich analysts predicted was a concerted effort to create the conditions for an offensive.

Zelinsky told CBS News that Ukraine would lose without U.S. aid.


Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that stopping Russian aggression in the northeast was a priority, and that Kiev's troops were continuing to retaliate in seven villages around the Kharkiv region.

“Disrupting Russian offensive intentions is now our No. 1 task. Whether we succeed in this task depends on every soldier, every sergeant, every officer,” Zelensky said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that its forces had captured four villages on the border with Ukraine's Kharkiv region, in addition to five villages reported on Saturday. These areas were potentially weakly fortified due to active fighting and constant heavy shelling, which facilitated the Russian advance.

Ukraine's leadership has not confirmed Moscow's gains, but commanders have acknowledged tough battles in the northeast. A Ukrainian unit said it had been forced to retreat from some areas and that Russian forces had captured at least one more village over the weekend.

In a video on Saturday evening, the Hostry Kartuzi unit, part of a special forces unit of the National Guard of Ukraine, said it was fighting for control of the village of Hlaibokke.

“Today, during heavy fighting, our defenders were forced to give up a few more of their positions, and today, another settlement has come under complete Russian control. By 20:00, for the village of Hlaibokke. The fight is on,” the fighters said in the clip.

The Institute for the Study of War said on Saturday that it believed Moscow's capture of Strelicha, Pilna, Platnyivka and Borsivka was true, adding that geo-located video showed Russians Forces have captured Morokhovets and Olenikov. The Washington-based think tank called the recent Russian gains “strategically significant.”

In the early days of the war, Russia unsuccessfully tried to storm Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, but retreated to its outskirts after about a month. In the fall of 2022, seven months later, the Ukrainian army pushed them out of Kharkiv. The bold counteroffensive helped convince the West that Ukraine could defeat Russia on the battlefield and that military support was needed.

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