Putin fires his oldest friend: Russian defence minister ousted in major Kremlin reshuffle

12 May 2024, 20:17 | Updated: 12 May 2024, 22:44

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu to be replaced, Russia announces
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu to be replaced, Russia announces. Picture: Alamy

By Danielle De Wolfe

Russia's defence minister and long-time Putin ally, Sergei Shoigu, is set to be replaced, the Kremlin has confirmed.

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Papers published by the upper chamber confirmed that Shoigu, who has served in the role since 2012, according to a the Kremlin website.

It comes more than two years after Russia began its 'special military operation' in Ukraine - and days after Putin was sworn in for another six-year term as Russia's president.

Putin has now proposed that his long-time ally, Sergei Shoigu, be replaced by Russia's former deputy prime minister, Andrei Belousov.

Russia's parliament must first approve the proposal - a measure that is all but a formality, given the lack of opposition to the appointment.

The announcement follows Vladimir Putin's warning of a future global conflict during his annual Victory Day parade speech on Thursday in Moscow's Red Square.

The change comes weeks after Timur Ivanov, a Russian deputy defence minister in charge of military construction projects, was jailed pending an investigation and trial on charges of bribery.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu to be replaced, Russia announces
Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu to be replaced, Russia announces. Picture: Alamy

Mr Shoigu, who has served as defence minister for more than a decade, will now be shifted to his new role as head of Russia's national security council.

In line with Russian law, the entire Russian cabinet resigned on Tuesday when Mr Putin began his fifth presidential term at a glittering Kremlin inauguration.

As part of the announcement, Putin also proposed that Sergei Lavrov remain in position as foreign minister.

The Kremlin also confirmed Mikhail Mishustin will remain in post as prime minister.

The news comes as many suggest the Russian leader is looking to project a unified front that reassures Russians and gives off a sense of stability.

The news coincides with warnings that Russia is understood to be recruiting far-right extremists to launch attacks against the West.

Extremists recruited by Russian GRU agents have been responsible for a series of attacks in several Nato nations over the last six months, intelligence sources have said.

Read more: Putin is ready to launch invasion of Nato nations to test West, warns Polish spy boss

Read more: Putin warns of 'global' war during Russian Victory Day rant - but only one tank paraded as Ukraine conflict rages on

Militants considered "pro-Russia, pro-Putin and very violent" are being taken on by undercover officers as well as the Wagner group, according to the Telegraph.

It comes after the Home Office said Britain will expel the Russian defence attaché for spying for the Kremlin.

The announcement follows Vladimir Putin's warning of a future global conflict during his annual Victory Day parade speech on Thursday in Moscow's Red Square.
The announcement follows Vladimir Putin's warning of a future global conflict during his annual Victory Day parade speech on Thursday in Moscow's Red Square. Picture: Alamy

Home Secretary James Cleverly also closed several buildings used by the Putin regime and promised a cap on the amount of time Russian diplomats can spend in the UK.

A source told National Security News: “The GRU are cultivating a network of Right-wing terrorists to deploy against Nato targets.

“These attacks are already happening and have been going on for a while in various Nato countries and the UK is definitely on the target list.

“Attacks may have taken place in the US and have occurred in Germany.

“Intelligence agencies are now actively warning their governments that the threat is very real.

“Right-wing extremists are being targeted because they are the group in the political spectrum who are pro-Russia, pro-Putin and very violent. 

“There is also a lot of covert contact between Right-wing groups in different countries.”

Ex-military intelligence officer on why Putin won't stop at Ukraine

It comes after the head of Poland's counterintelligence service warned that Vladimir Putin is ready to launch an invasion of Nato nations and annex parts of Estonia and Sweden to test the West.

Jarosław Stróżyk said Putin is in a position where he could begin planning a small-scale invasion but is holding back due to the West's response to the attack in Ukraine.

"Putin is certainly already prepared for some mini-operation against one of the Baltic countries, for example, to enter the famous Narva [municipality in Estonia] or to land on one of the Swedish islands," Mr Stróżyk told Polish paper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

He added: "What the West is doing together to support Ukraine shows him that in the event of an attack on Nato, the Western response would be even greater."

Several member states have already begun alerting citizens about potential Russian aggression.

Poland has said it is ready to host nuclear weapons on their borders if asked to by Nato.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said: "Russia is increasingly militarising Kaliningrad. Recently it has been relocating its nuclear weapons to Belarus.

"If our allies decide to deploy nuclear arms on our territory as part of nuclear sharing, to reinforce Nato's eastern flank, we are ready to do so.

"I've already talked about it several times. I must admit that when asked about it, I declared our readiness."

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