Why Putin replaced long-term ally Sergei Shoigu as defence minister

 He has since been appointed as secretary of Russia's Security Council

Russia Ukraine War Revolt Rhetoric Sergei Shoigu

Russian President Vladimir Putin has replaced Sergei Shoigu as the defence minister with Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov. Shoigu, a long-standing ally of Putin, had played a key role in the Ukraine war. 

The move comes as the entire Russian Cabinet quit last week after Putin's reinauguration as the President, a mandatory process under Russian law. While most members of his Cabinet are expected to keep their jobs, Shoigu found himself out. He has since been appointed as secretary of Russia's Security Council. 

Though the reasons for replacing Shoigu aren't clear yet, Russia faced several setbacks during the initial phase of the war, with Shoigu as the defence minister. A key figure, who is said to have influenced Putin's decision to send troops to Ukraine, Shoigu's miscalculation cost Russia dearly after Ukraine put up a considerable defence against the Kremlin's troops, contrary to the latter's expectations.  

Shoigu was also in the eye of the storm after the deceased Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin accused him of not supplying the Wagner group with ammunition for the Bakhmut battle. Prigozhin called Shoigu a "dirtbag" and "elderly clown" in audio messages that went viral. 

Shoigu's removal also comes at a time when 13 people died in apparent Ukrainian shelling in the Russian city of Belgorod. 

The move does not come as a surprise for all these reasons. "Last month, a deputy defence minister - Timur Ivanov - was accused of taking bribes and taken into custody in a rare move against such a senior official. Ivanov was seen as an ally of Shoigu and worked with him for many years," according to BBC. 

Shoigu will now serve as the secretary of Russia's Security Council, replacing Nikolai Patrushev, who has long been the country's top security official. However, Shoigu's position will still carry some authority, Mark Galeotti, head of the Mayak Intelligence consultancy told AP. "High-level security materials intended for the president's eyes will still pass through the Security Council Secretariat, even with changes at the top. You can't just institutionally turn around a bureaucracy and how it works overnight," he said. 

Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, too opined that Shoigu's new appointment to Russia's Security Council showed that the Russian leader viewed the institution as a reservoir for his "'former' key figures people who he can't in any way let go, but doesn't have a place for.


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