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Putin Ousts Longtime Ally Shoigu, Appoints Belousov as Defence Minister

Belousov’s appointment as defence minister reflects Putin’s desire to fortify Russia’s military capabilities amid geopolitical tensions and economic imperatives.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is poised to replace his longstanding ally Sergei Shoigu as defence minister, the Kremlin revealed today.

Shoigu, 68, who has held the position since 2012, will transition to the role of secretary of Russia’s Security Council. Papers released by the upper chamber of the Russian parliament indicate that Shoigu will be succeeded by Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov.

A pivotal figure in Russia’s conflict with Ukraine, Shoigu’s influence extends beyond military matters. President Putin intends for Shoigu to assume the mantle of Nikolai Patrushev on the influential Security Council, although Patrushev’s new designation remains unclear.

Despite lacking a military background, Shoigu ascended to the defence portfolio, evoking discontent among some military brass. A civil engineer by profession, he rose to prominence as head of the emergencies and disaster relief ministry in the 1990s.

However, Shoigu’s tenure as defence minister faced scrutiny, particularly following Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine over two years ago. His public spat with Wagner mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin further compounded his challenges, with Prigozhin accusing Shoigu of incompetence in managing the war effort.

The proposed appointment of Belousov, an economist with limited military experience, signals a strategic shift by President Putin. 

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov asserted that innovation is paramount for the defence minister role, likening the current military expenditure to the Soviet era.

According to reports, Shoigu’s replacement reflects his dwindling influence amid military setbacks in Ukraine. 

The appointment of an economist underscores the evolving priorities of the Kremlin, with the economy increasingly intertwined with the war effort.

Belousov, described as a staunch defender of the state and aligned with the Russian Orthodox Church, boasts a background in martial arts and served as an aide to President Putin before assuming governmental roles.

As Putin embarks on his fifth presidential term, continuity remains evident in cabinet positions, with veteran Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov retaining his post.

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