Analysis

Putin’s surprise decision to replace his defence minister raises as many questions as it answers

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the dead former chief of the Wagner mercenaries, has had the main aim of his attempted coup fulfilled from beyond the grave, writes Kim Sengupta. But it may not be the end of the changes the Russian president makes as he seeks to seize the advantage in Ukraine

Monday 13 May 2024 18:18 BST
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Russian president Vladimir Putin and Sergei Shoigu, who is set to be replaced as defence minister in a surprise reshuffle announced by the Kremlin
Russian president Vladimir Putin and Sergei Shoigu, who is set to be replaced as defence minister in a surprise reshuffle announced by the Kremlin (EPA)

From beyond the grave, Yevgeny Prigozhin has had one of the main aims of his attempted coup fulfilled. Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu, one of the Wagner chief’s hate figures, has been removed from his post.

The bitter complaint from Prigozhin and his ally at the time, the Chechen warlord Ramzan Kadyrov, was that Shoigu and his bureaucrats were among those culpable for the shortcomings which saw Ukraine claw back land lost in Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Shoigu’s sacking was greeted with elation by Russia’s warhawks, the “Z-Patriots”, with Konstantin Malofeyev, describing it as pure “Easter joy” (Orthodox Easter took place last week) and declaring that the move showed that, for president Putin, defence was “becoming the absolute priority of all state policy”.

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