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Putin removes defence minister Shoigu

UK defence minister Grant Shapps said the Ukraine conflict had left more than 355,000 Russian soldier casualties under Shoigu’s watch as well as “mass civilian suffering”.

putinMOSCOW, RUSSIA: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday moved to replace defence minister Sergei Shoigu in a major shake-up to Russia’s military leadership more than two years into its Ukraine offensive.

Putin proposed economist Andrey Belousov as Shoigu’s replacement, according to a list of the ministerial nominations published by the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament.

The move comes at a key time in the conflict with Russian troops advancing in eastern Ukraine and having just launched a major new ground operation against the northeastern Kharkiv region.

Despite a string of military setbacks in the first year of the campaign — including the failure to capture the Ukrainian capital Kyiv and retreats from the Kharkiv and southern Kherson regions — Putin had stood by Shoigu until now.

That included when Wagner paramilitary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin launched a bloody insurrection last year calling for Shoigu’s removal.

Explaining the timing of the decision, the Kremlin on Sunday said it needed the defence ministry to stay “innovative”.

“The defence ministry must be absolutely open to innovation, to the introduction of all advanced ideas, to the creation of conditions for economic competitiveness,” state media quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying in a briefing on the appointments.

“The battlefield is won by whoever is more open to innovation,” Peskov said.

“That is likely why the president has settled on the candidacy of Andrey Belousov,” he added.

Belousov, who has no military background, has been one of Putin’s most influential economic advisers over the last decade.

UK defence minister Grant Shapps said the Ukraine conflict had left more than 355,000 Russian soldier casualties under Shoigu’s watch as well as “mass civilian suffering”.

“Russia needs a Defence Minister who would undo that disastrous legacy” and end the conflict, “but all they’ll get is another of Putin’s puppets,” he wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

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