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Putin Replaces Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu with Civilian Economist Amid Ukraine War

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President Vladimir Putin has replaced his long-serving defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, with a civilian economist, Andrey Belousov.

Belousov, a former first deputy prime minister known for his economic expertise, was appointed as the new defense minister by presidential decree, according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. Sergei Shoigu, who had held the defense post for 12 years and led the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, has been “relieved” of his duties but will remain an influential figure within Putin’s administration.

Peskov stated that Shoigu will take on the role of Secretary of Russia’s Security Council, replacing former FSB head Nikolai Patrushev, and will also serve as a deputy in the Military-Industrial Commission. The shakeup comes as Russia grapples with the realities of its faltering military campaign in Ukraine and the need to bolster its defense capabilities.

The appointment of Belousov, a civilian with an economic background, is seen as a strategic move by Putin to address the rising defense expenditure and the need for “innovation” on the battlefield. Peskov highlighted that Russia’s defense spending is approaching levels last seen during the Cold War era, necessitating a fresh approach.

“Today on the battlefield, the winner is the one who is more open to innovation,” Peskov said, justifying the decision to appoint a civilian to lead the defense ministry during this critical juncture.

While Belousov’s appointment has caused a shift in leadership, Peskov still emphasized that the military’s operational command structure would remain unchanged, with Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov retaining his role and responsibilities.

Prior to his removal, Sergei Shoigu’s tenure as defense minister had been marred by criticism from within Russia, with the late Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin accusing him of bureaucratic incompetence and starving his fighters of resources.

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