But their dissension and Shoigu’s decades-long political career faced its biggest test when a rebellion led by Wagner’s mercenary group leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, fired the minister in charge of state security and control.
Putin appears to have survived the rebellion after holding surprise talks led by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. But Shoigu’s position remained critical due to Prigozhin’s unprecedented attacks on his ministry.
Prigozhin managed to capture the headquarters of the Russian army in the south command in Rostov-on-Don, the nerve center of the invasion of Ukraine, and accused Shoigu of running “like a coward” swearing that he “will -hold”. The Minister of Defense was not present at the time and, for the time being, is completely out of the public eye.
Chief Wagner accused Shoigu and Russian leader Valery Gerasimov, his other nemesis, of causing the deaths of “tens of thousands of Russians” in the conflict and “trading the territory to the enemy”. “The winner of the evening is Lukashenko,” said Arnaud Dubien, director of the Franco-Russian think tank the Observatory. “The big loser is Shoigu.”
But even before the uprising began on Friday evening, Shoigu had been under great pressure because of Prigozhin’s attack and the impotence of the advanced Russian army. On June 12, a video was shared of Putin and Shoigu attending an award ceremony at a military hospital, where the Russian president was shown turning his back on the defense minister in contempt.
Shoigu has had an unparalleled political career in post-Soviet Russia, and his presence at the center of power in Moscow predates Putin himself. A native of the Tuva region in southern Siberia, Shoigu was one of the few non-ethnic Russians to hold high government positions after the collapse of the USSR.
He began his rise in 1994 when he was appointed Minister for Emergency Situations in the early years of Boris Yeltsin’s government. Shoigu became familiar and unexpected to Russians, and one of the country’s most popular politicians, as he raced across the country to deal with the disaster caused by the plane crash. until the earthquake. .
Having served under 12 prime ministers, he held that position until 2012, when he was appointed governor of the Moscow Region before Putin quickly appointed him defense minister. ‘the same year when a corruption scandal brought down his predecessor Anatoly Serdyukov. It was made immediately a general, although there is no high-level military experience, but managed successful operations including the 2015 intervention in Syria, which keeps Moscow’s ally Bashar al. – Assad.
For his 65th birthday, Putin had a special gift for his friend, one of Russia’s highest decorations, the award “For Merit to the Fatherland” to add to the box full of decorations. But the successful invasion of Ukraine – which the Kremlin initially hoped would see Russian tanks land in Kyiv – has raised questions about its future.
“Prigozhin wants to send a message that Choïgou and Gerasimov will be dismissed because they are not qualified and the change of strategy is important,” said Pierre Razoux, academic director of the Mediterranean Foundation for Strategic Studies (FMES). There are no more words of macho friendship or photos like in 2017 of two shirtless men hanging out on the beach in the Siberian taiga.
Instead, Shoigu was reduced to a protesting meeting with Putin or returned to a video screen as the Kremlin’s head of state oversees a video conference. Prigozhin also took aim at the Shoigu family, especially her daughter Ksenia’s husband, Alexey Stolyarov, a health blogger who happily avoided war but was accused by opposition media of liking his post.
The Russian-language Telegram channel has been the subject of speculation about a possible successor to Shoigu, with Tula regional governor Alexei Dyumin, who has held high-ranking positions in the military and presidential security, seen as a frontrunner. “Shoigu’s team is on the verge of failure, and Sergei Kuzhugetovich himself is disappointed and, perhaps, he will resign,” the telegram channel following Preemnik said.