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Putin Fires Defense Minister Leading War In Ukraine

Shoigu, a long-standing ally of Putin, was replaced on Sunday by Andrei Belousov, 65, a civilian economist who previously served as the first deputy prime minister in the government reshuffled after Putin’s inauguration last week.

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Sergei Shoigu, the man leading Russia’s war in Ukraine, has been removed as defense minister, a post he has held since 2012, in a surprise shake-up hinting at Vladimir Putin’s true focus.

Shoigu, a long-standing ally of Putin, was replaced on Sunday by Andrei Belousov, 65, a civilian economist who previously served as the first deputy prime minister in the government reshuffled after Putin’s inauguration last week.

The appointment of Belousov, which is subject to the approval of Russia’s Parliament, is the most significant shake-up in the country’s military command since the onset of the war in Ukraine in February 2022.

On Monday, Kremlin observers stated that the move to remove Shoigu — and appoint a civilian economist in his place — might indicate Putin’s dissatisfaction with the war’s progress and his determination to prepare Russia for an extended conflict with Ukraine and its Western allies.

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“It’s another indication that Putin is prepared to fight a long war in Ukraine and make the Russian economy sacrifice whatever may be necessary to do so,” Michael Clarke, professor of war studies at King’s College London, told NBC News.

While Shoigu has been the focus of criticism regarding the conduct of the war in Ukraine, his role and importance in the fight so far cannot be underestimated.

Just recently, his troops took control of the battlefield and initiated a new offensive in the north after achieving several gains in Ukraine’s east.

Nevertheless, his political future has been under sharp scrutiny since the war’s outset and Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s short-lived rebellion.

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He managed to survive the storms, but the recent detention of one of his deputies, Timur Ivanov, in a high-profile corruption scandal appeared to have sealed his fate.

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Nevertheless, Shoigu, whose friendship with Putin was evident through their frequent fishing trips to Siberia, was not entirely sidelined.

He was named the secretary of Russia’s National Security Council, a position technically regarded as senior to his defense ministry role, likely as a face-saving measure. He replaces another prominent figure, Nikolai Patrushev.


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