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Putin’s Shocking Move: Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu Sacked as Russia’s Security Council Faces Major Shake-Up

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Sergei Shoigu is the longtime Defense Minister and factotum of Russia, and he was fired by President Vladimir Putin on Sunday. This shocked almost everyone. Putin announced to the Federal Council (upper house of Russia’s Potemkin Parliament) the names of the members of his new government following his March re-election to let the rest of the world know about the removal of the architect of Putin’s War in Ukraine. Shoigu has been replaced by First Deputy Premier Andrei Belousov, another Putin crony.

Here is the official announcement.

What Does It Mean?

In the words of Winston Churchill “Kremlin politics intrigues are similar to a dog fight under a carpet.” Outsiders only hear the growling and then when they see the bones flying out, it’s obvious who won.

Shoigu is a fraud and a failure. His only competitive advantage was unquestioning loyalty towards Vladimir Putin. His position weakened the more he was seen as a liability. Shoigu’s departure is not surprising, but his longevity is. The Russian invasion of Ukraine revealed how Shoigu, his lickspittles, and their sycophants had sucked money out of Russia’s defense budget during the past decade. The invasion was not only a humiliation but also a costly mistake. The market for one of the few manufactured goods that Russia produces, weaponry has been hit hard as anyone who has access to YouTube or X/Twitter can see what a mess it is. Talleyrand said, “It wasn’t a crime but a mistake.”

Shoigu was further undermined by the mutiny of Yevgeny Prgozhin and his murder, as well as the dismantling of the Wagner Group PMC. Shoigu may have survived accusations of massive corruption and incompetence on the military level because Russians know that this is their lot. It is much harder to get away from making the Tsar appear ridiculous.

The writing was on the wall two weeks ago when one of Shoigu’s top deputies, who embezzled a trivial $10 million, was arrested.

The aide was not only arrested but is being held in jail pending his trial.

You can be sure that when senior people are arrested and treason charges are thrown around, but not shut down officially, the apparent target is a staked-out goat.

Even Putin is likely to have acknowledged the failure of the multi-billion-ruble “modernization” program for Russia’s Armed Forces, which was much lauded. Shoigu’s unpopularity with the Russian people is a major factor in his downfall.

Shoigu will not be moving anywhere. Shoigu was appointed Secretary of the Security Council of Russia after Putin fired Nikolai Patrushev. Patrushev (shocked) is also a longtime Putin friend and was the driving force behind the decision in 2014 to annex Crimea and invade Ukraine. He was Putin’s colleague in the KGB and has served as secretary of the Security Council of Russia for the past eight years. He is unknown to us, but we expect him to appear with a promotion in hand, or run into an open window.

Shoigu was technically promoted. This is a gimmick to save face that will fool no one. Shoigu might not care, because his new role puts corruption and graft within his reach.

Belousov is the civilian economist who will replace Shoigu. Before he entered politics, he had a strong academic background. I believe that Putin knows the impact of war on Russia’s economic base and is aware of its decrepit condition. People can talk about how much Russia produces, but they can’t deny that the war has hurt their economy and that their industrial base is in a decrepit state.

Belousov’s role as a technocrat who shuffles the deck chairs remains to be seen, or whether he will become an activist defense ministry. We will get our first clue about how this will unfold by looking at the fate of Russian commander-in-chief Valery Gerasimov.

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