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‘Just one question: who is he?’ How Russia’s pro-war bloggers reacted to Putin’s sudden replacement of Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu

Source: Meduza
Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images

In a surprise reshuffle on Sunday, Vladimir Putin removed Sergey Shoigu from his post as Russia’s defense minister, where he had served since 2012. Set to replace him is Andrey Belousov, a longtime presidential economic adviser who’s been a deputy prime minister since 2020. According to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, the shakeup is part of a bid to better integrate the country’s defense spending into its overall economy: putting a civilian economist at the helm of of the Defense Ministry, he said, will make the agency more “open to innovation.” Russia’s pro-invasion military bloggers and “war correspondents” reacted cautiously to the news, with most of them trying to find reasons to be optimistic about the president’s decision to entrust the ministry to an economist heretofore unknown in Z-world. (Hardly any of them mentioned Shoigu, who’s replacing Nikolai Patrushev as Secretary of Russia’s Security Council.) Meduza shares some notable reactions to the news from the Russian pro-war blogosphere. They’ve been edited and abridged for length and clarity.

Mikhail Zvinchuk

Pro-Kremlin Telegram channel Rybar

In practice, Belousov’s appointment as defense minister means the start of a full-scale audit and a restructuring of all financial models within the defense establishment, as well as the potential end of the pursuit of ostentatious displays. Given the severe time constraints, Belousov will definitely prefer a single page with two Excel spreadsheets representing different economic scenarios to a full PowerPoint presentation. And he’ll make decisions based on those tables, because he’s a numbers guy. Belousov has always had his own point of view on a range of issues, if not always a popular one. But that’s probably what Russia’s defense establishment needs right now.

Yury Kotyonok

“War correspondent”

Belousov will perform an audit of the Defense Ministry’s entire financial and economic bloc. He’s a professional economist of the highest level. His father was one of the Kosygin economists. He’s a statist. In the overall military hierarchy, Belousov is a nominal figure. The influence of [Valery] Gerasimov, the head of the Russian Army’s General Staff, is growing. But the defense minister’s new deputies will balance out the system. And then everything will become clear.


Telegram channel associated with Russian Aerospace Forces

The Supreme has proposed appointing Belousov as Russian defense minister. I just have one question: who is he?

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Kirill Fedorov

Pro-war blogger

Andrey Belousov’s job is not to fight, it’s not to direct the troops, and it’s not to do something in the rear — it’s to ensure victory from an economic standpoint. The economy is what allows one side to win a war. Right now, he has the benefit of the doubt, and he has the opportunity to justify the faith that’s been put in him. He has the chance to get the Defense Ministry’s spending in order. Maybe a numbers guy will be able to do this better than his predecessor. Maybe the former minister was a better fit for peacetime, where the job required beautiful parades and the demonstration of a limited but nice-looking contingent in Syria. But now perhaps what we need is a person who can guide us to all-out patriotic war, in which everything is being done for the front and for victory.

Military Informant

Pro-war Telegram channel

Friends, a ministerial position is inherently more administrative. This person’s job, first and foremost, is to be able to competently manage high-ranking people and manage the resources available to him. In the conditions of the special military operation, which has already long since turned into a protracted war of attrition, appointing an economist serves a direct practical purpose. Having some military dolt in that post, one who’s never seen anything in his life outside of the barracks and the parade grounds, won’t help hasten our victory — it’ll more likely do the opposite. Right now, I’d just like to wish the new minister good luck and hope that the current dysfunctional system changes at least somewhat and becomes modernized to meet our current challenges.

As Sergey Shoigu leaves the post of defense minister, which he’s occupied for the last 11.5 years, there’s a lot I’d like to say, but I’ll stick to the main point: faced with the biggest mission of his life, the special military operation in Ukraine, Shoigu couldn’t hack it.

Russia’s pro-war bloggers

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Dmitry Seleznev

Pro-war Telegram channel Two Majors

In 2023, Belousov suggested that [Russia’s] big corporations make “voluntary donations” [to the war effort] with their profits. Indeed, how can you think of profits in wartime?

In other words, judging by these statements, Belousov believes in justice, which you can’t but be impressed by. And judging by the long time he’s spent in the highest political circles, he’s supervised economics initiatives ordered by the president himself. The appointment of a figure trusted by the president from a different agency will disrupt the rigid system of corrupt ties inside the Defense Ministry, which, judging by the recent arrest of Deputy Defense Minister [Timur] Ivanov, is alive and well. And it’s obvious that this reshuffling is being done for the purpose of strengthening the economic component of the military bloc.

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Sergey Kolyasnikov

Pro-war blogger, pro-war Telegram channel Zergulio

As for Belousov’s candidacy as defense minister: not everyone understands that the defense minister is primarily concerned with politics and the economy. This is really the case. That’s why Andrey Removich Belousov, a strong economist and statist, is the best possible candidate.

I won’t mince words: it’s a crucial appointment. In a country at war, there are currently more than 50,000 officers without housing; the queue from 2016 still hasn’t been cleared, and entire blocks of apartment buildings for soldiers in major cities are rotting away. And it’s not just [former Deputy Defense Minister] Timur Ivanov who was flaunting [his ill-gotten wealth]; there are plenty of more interesting and influential figures who’ve been showing off. So rest assured that it won’t take long for [Belousov] to go gray [from overworking]. All I can do is wish him good luck — because he’s about to have to shovel so much horseshit that Hercules himself would lose it. I see this appointment as a wholly good thing. 

Dmitry Steshin

“War correspondent” for Komsomolskaya Pravda, Telegram channel Russian Tarantass

[Soldiers] called us from the front to comment on the appointment of the new Security Council secretary. Many of them were cursing and swearing, overwhelmed by emotions: joy, surprise, delight. All we could make out was that “Putin amazed us.” Yes, Mr. Putin has that ability — you can’t take that away from him. The red wheel is now set to roll forward down the hill, full steam ahead.

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