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May 13, 2024, 7:43am EDT
Europe
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Semafor Signals

Russia replaces defense minister in surprise cabinet shakeup

Insights from the Financial Times, BBC, and Phillips O’Brien

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Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu wait before a ceremony inaugurating Vladimir Putin as President of Russia at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia May 7, 2024. Sputnik/Alexander Kazakov/Pool via REUTERS
Outgoing Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on right. Alexander Kazakov/Sputnik via Reuters
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The News

Russian President Vladimir Putin reshuffled his defense team in Moscow, a move that caught some observers by surprise, even as Russian troops made significant battlefield progress in Ukraine.

On Sunday Putin replaced his longtime Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu with the economist and First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov. Shoigu, a firm Putin ally, is set to be appointed as secretary of Russia’s powerful Security Council, taking over from Nikolai Patrushev, another close aide to the president. It’s unclear what role Patrushev will step into.

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In Ukraine, funding delays and dwindling manpower have led to a “difficult” situation for Ukrainian troops, a top military official told The Guardian this weekend. Russian troops are furthering their advances, and Moscow now controls more of Ukraine than it has at any point since its Feb. 2022 invasion.

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SIGNALS

Semafor Signals: Global insights on today's biggest stories.

Cabinet reshuffle points to focus on Russian war economy

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Financial Times

The reshuffle marks “the biggest shake-up” of Putin’s security officials in a decade and a half, noted the Financial Times, at a time when Russian forces are making gains against Ukraine’s army. The removal of Shoigu, once viewed as “near-untouchable,” is being projected as the Kremlin trying “to rein in Russia’s runaway defence spending” by appointing an economist, it wrote. One analyst told the outlet the reshuffle showed it was “clear that Russian economic elites performed far better than military elites in this war.”

Russia working to gain more ground before US aid arrives

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Phillips O'Brien

It’s not clear if Russia’s push into Ukraine’s northeastern region of Kharkiv will amount to a major loss in Ukrainian ground, despite acknowledgments from top officials in Kyiv about the difficult situation that troops are facing. Ukraine had been readying for an attack in Kharkiv for weeks, military expert Phillips O’Brien wrote, and it came as no surprise when Moscow launched a fresh push this weekend. The offensive comes as Russia tries to gain ground before Western aid arrives in Kyiv, O’Brien noted. “These attacks seem very much an effort of lots of pressing in lots of places, to see if anything works,” he wrote.

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