Sergei Shoigu: Putin replaces Russia's defense minister with a civilian amid anger over Ukraine war and rising defense spending




CNN

Russian President Vladimir Putin has replaced his defense minister and close ally Sergei Shoigu with a civilian economist, marking a major change in military leadership more than two years after Moscow's bitter war on Ukraine. Defense spending has increased.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Sunday that Andrey Belousov, a civilian who served as a former deputy prime minister and specializes in economics, had been appointed to a top defense post.

Peskov said Shoigu had been “relieved” of his post by presidential decree, but would remain an influential part of Putin's administration as secretary of Russia's Security Council, former FSB chief Nikolai Petroshev said. will replace, who will “transfer to another job.”

Shoigu will also become a deputy in Russia's military-industrial commission, Peskov said, as Putin seeks a fifth term as president.

The upheaval comes as Russia launched its most serious cross-border ground offensive since retaking Ukraine's northern Kharkiv region in late summer 2022. A grinding advance into Donetsk in the east has seen incremental but significant progress.

Shoigu led the country's defense ministry for 12 years and led the invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Russian troops initially surprised Kiev but were soon defeated, exposing the weaknesses of Moscow's corruption-riddled army and its unwillingness to send in poorly trained men. and equipped troops with what Ukrainian and Russian soldiers have dubbed “meat grinders.”

His critics have often described Shoigu as out of touch and out of touch with the realities of the conflict. His fiercest critic was the late Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who accused the defense ministry of starving his fighters of resources and bureaucratic incompetence before launching a failed coup last year and weeks after the plane crash. Died in an accident.

Rising military spending and the need for 'innovation'

Peskov said in a press call, during which he highlighted the ministry's growing budget, which he said was approaching levels last seen during the Cold War, that Belousov was told by Putin that “innovation is needed”. was chosen because of

“On the battlefield today, the winner is the one who is most open to innovation,” Peskov said. “Therefore, it is natural that at the current stage, the president decided that the Russian Defense Ministry should be headed by a civilian.”

“Due to known geopolitical conditions, we are slowly approaching the situation of the mid-80s when the security bloc's share of the economy was 7.4 percent,” Peskov said of the war in Ukraine. No, but it's extremely important,” Peskov said.

He said that the budget is currently 6.7% of GDP.

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 the assistant to the president on economic affairs for a long time, and in the last term was the first deputy of the government. The chairman was also the cabinet of ministers,” Peskov said.

Peskov added that the new appointment does not signal a change in Russia's current military system.

“As far as the military component is concerned, this appointment will in no way change the existing coordinate system. The military component has always been the prerogative of the Chief of General Staff. [Valery Gerasimov]And he will continue his activities. “No change is currently envisaged in this regard,” he said.

In his new role, Shoigu will oversee Russia's military-industrial complex, Peskov said.

“He is deeply immersed in this work, he knows very well the pace of production of military-industrial products in specific institutions and often visits these institutions,” he said.

The news follows the arrest last month of Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov, one of Shoigu's closest allies, on charges of taking bribes since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine two years ago. , was the country's biggest corruption scandal.

According to Russian state media TASS, Ivanov is accused of taking a bribe of 1 million rubles (at least $10,800).

Former US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in an interview with CNN on Sunday that Putin's change was an “important” and “interesting move”.

He said that the main argument coming out from Moscow at the moment is that Russia is moving towards a war economy. “They are on a war footing.”

“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 acting professionally, that they were Modernizing all their equipment, their ideology, how they train and fight. And we haven't really seen that on the battlefield.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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