Vladimir Putin proposes new defence minister as Ukraine fighting rages

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has proposed replacing Sergei Shoigu as defence minister and appointed him as secretary of Russia’s national security council.

The appointment comes after Mr Putin proposed appointing Andrei Belousov as the country’s defence minister in place of Mr Shoigu, who has served in the post for years.

The reshuffle comes as Mr Putin starts his fifth presidential term and as the war in Ukraine drags on for the third year

In line with Russian law, the entire Russian Cabinet resigned on Tuesday following Mr Putin’s glittering inauguration in the Kremlin.

Russia Cabinet
Andrei Belousov is set to become defence minister (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

Mr Shoigu’s deputy Timur Ivanov was arrested last month on bribery charges and was ordered to remain in custody pending an official investigation.

The arrest was widely interpreted as an attack on Mr Shoigu and a possible precursor to his dismissal, despite his close personal ties with Mr Putin.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that Mr Putin had decided to give the defence minister role to a civilian because the ministry should be “open to innovation and cutting-edge ideas” and Mr Belousov, who until recently served as the first deputy prime minister, is the right fit for the job.

Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Centre, said in an online commentary that Mr Shoigu’s new appointment to Russia’s Security Council showed that the Russian leader viewed the institution as a political holding space.

Figures such as former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev have also been appointed to the security council. He has served as the body’s deputy chairman since 2020.

“The Security Council is becoming a reservoir for Putin’s “former” key figures — people who he can’t let go, but doesn’t have a place for,” Ms Stanovaya wrote on social media.

The announcement of Mr Shoigu’s new role came as 12 people were reported dead and 20 more wounded in Russia’s border city of Belgorod, where a section of a residential building collapsed after what Russian officials said was Ukrainian shelling.

In Ukraine, thousands more civilians have fled Russia’s renewed ground offensive in Ukraine’s north east that has targeted towns and villages with a barrage of artillery and mortar shelling, officials said.

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