Russia: Defence Minister Shoigu replaced

As his fifth term as head of state begins, President Vladimir Putin has dismissed Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, who had been in the post since 2012, and appointed First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov in his place. The press sheds light on why the Kremlin is entrusting its army to a civilian business professional in the middle of the Ukraine war.

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Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

The task: upgrade without collapsing

The Russian leadership knows that a misguided arms policy could bring the country to its knees, Rzeczpospolita points out:

“Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has been sidelined. His place has been taken by a civilian technocrat, Andrei Belousov, who is expected to prepare the Russian army and economy for a long war. ... The Kremlin clique which dates back to the KGB are mindful of the fact that the USSR collapsed under the weight of the arms race imposed on it by US President Ronald Reagan, and wants to avoid this at all costs today.”

La Stampa (IT) /

Struggling for autarchy in the war of resources

The appointment of a civilian economist is not a sign of détente but of the intention to wage a long war, La Stampa fears:

“The new First Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov declared yesterday in the Duma that Russia's military industry has hired 500,000 new workers since 2023, converted 850 former civilian factories and increased wages by 30 to 60 percent. The militarised economy requires a minister to bring together the factories, the army and the government for what is shaping up to be a war of resources following the allocation of US aid to Ukraine. Zelensky is relying on the West, Putin is now relying on Soviet-style autarchy.”

Echo (RU) /

Acceptance problems likely

In a substack text published by Echo, economics expert Sergei Alexashenko says it's possible that the generals will rebel against their new boss Belousov:

“This appointment harbours great risks for Putin. For one thing, it's unlikely that the military will respect a man who has never served a day in the army, and take him seriously as a superior. Putin has already gone through this when he appointed [Shoigu's predecessor Anatoly] Serdyukov and the latter turned almost the entire general staff against him. Beloussov is an official with a lot of character who is not inclined to accept opinions that differ from his own. That's why I rate the chances of a 'revolt' by the generals as quite high.”

Spotmedia (RO) /

Reshuffel no surprise

Spotmedia believes Shoigu's removal from the post had been on the cards for a long time:

“Especially at the beginning of the Ukraine invasion, the army was criticised for being inadequately equipped and lacking coordination and professionalism. Since then, Putin has experienced a failed uprising by the Wagner mercenaries, whose chief Yevgeny Prigozhin had a personal grudge against Shoigu. The Ministry of Defence was recently rocked by a high-level corruption scandal involving Shoigu's deputy - which raised questions since people have known about his great wealth for years. At that point there was already speculation about whether it was a battle between rival clans or even a sign that Shoigu's removal was imminent.”

Abbas Gallyamov (RU) /

Mobilising the economy for the army

Political scientist Abbas Galliamov explains on Facebook why Belousov, an expert on the economy, has been appointed defence minister:

“Belousov's appointment is far more interesting [than Shoigu's change of post]. In my opinion the objective is for him to acquire the necessary resources for a protracted war. Belousov is a well-known advocate of the mobilisation economy in the sense of 'everything for the front, everything for victory'. He has a good grasp of the economic situation, so it will be difficult for his civilian colleagues to hide anything from him. The new defence minister will make everything that is not nailed down operational.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

What comes next for the grey eminence Patrushev?

Corriere della Sera looks at why Nikolai Patrushev was replaced as head of the National Security Council:

“Shoigu replaces Patrushev, who, like Putin, grew up in the KGB and may have acquired too much power and autonomy. Rumours have even been circulating for some time that Patrushev's son Dmitry has been identified as a candidate to succeed Putin as president. A rumour that may have angered Putin. It is not yet clear which 'important post' Patrushev senior is to take up. It could be that of Vice President of the Council itself or the head of the Kremlin administration. ... In this position, Patrushev would be closer to Putin and under his direct control.”