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Putin punishes Defence Minister Shoigu for inability to achieve military goals – ISW

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Putin punishes Defence Minister Shoigu for inability to achieve military goals – ISW

Russian leader Vladimir Putin met with Alexei Dyumin, the governor of Russia’s Tula Oblast, who is affiliated with the Wagner Group PMC, on 2 May. This indicates that Putin may be seeking to reduce the power of Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, balancing him with his rivals and punishing him for his inability to achieve the Kremlin’s military goals. 

Source: Institute for the Study of War (ISW)

Details: Dyumin briefed Putin on Tula Oblast’s contribution to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine at the presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, Moscow Oblast. 

Dyumin focused on three topics: support and housing for those Russian soldiers who were fighting in Ukraine, improving Russia’s defence industrial base, and improving the medical system in Tula Oblast. 

Dyumin’s report appeared to be an attempt to regain Putin’s favour after he lost it during Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mutiny in late June 2023.

Dyumin repeatedly sided with Prigozhin in 2022 and 2023, hoping to replace Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu himself.

Putin likely deliberately made his meeting with Dyumin public after the high-profile arrest of Russian Deputy Defence Minister Timur Ivanov on 24 April and before the presidential inauguration on 7 May to punish Shoigu’s Defence Ministry for failing to achieve the military goals set out by the Kremlin earlier. 

The meeting between Putin and Dyumin sparked considerable debate in the Russian media, with numerous bloggers and political commentators pointing out that the meeting took place between Ivanov’s arrest and the expected government reshuffle after the inauguration. 

Russian insider sources speculated that the Kremlin might appoint Dyumin to a new role related to the Russian defence industrial base.

Russian insider sources also interpreted Shoigu’s statement on 1 May that Russia needed to increase the quantity and quality of weapons and military equipment to „maintain the required pace of the offensive“ during a meeting at the Joint Headquarters of the „Special Military Operation“ [as the Russians call the war against Ukraine – ed.] on the night of 30 April-1 May as a direct attack on certain Russian political figures.

A Russian insider source also claimed on 1 May that Shoigu had harshly criticised Russian Trade Minister Denis Manturov, defence company Rostec and Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Security Council, in response to Ivanov’s arrest. 

It was reported that Shoigu had a particularly close relationship with Ivanov and that Ivanov’s arrest, coupled with Dyumin’s sudden return to the political forefront, could indicate that the Kremlin was unhappy with Shoigu’s performance. One Russian source, however, assessed that Shoigu’s departure was unlikely to happen in 2024.

The meeting between Putin and Dyumin also suggested that Putin was likely the person responsible for the decision to arrest Ivanov. 

ISW noted that Putin regularly rotated officials and military commanders who enjoyed his favour, hoping to encourage different factions to achieve his goals. 

To quote the ISW’s Key Takeaways on 2 May:  

Ukrainian intelligence officials identified three Russian efforts to destabilise Ukraine and achieve victory, and both Ukrainian and US intelligence officials issued assessments about the battlefield situation that are consistent with prior ISW forecasts that Russian forces may take Chasiv Yar but are very unlikely to seize major Ukrainian cities.
Major General Vadym Skibitskyi, Deputy Head of Defence Intelligence of Ukraine, assessed that Russian forces will likely begin an offensive effort towards Kharkiv and Sumy oblasts at the end of May or start of June 2024 but that Russian forces will not be able to take Kharkiv or Sumy cities.
Skibitskyi noted that the Kremlin views information operations as a second line of effort to defeat Ukraine and that current Russian information operations heavily focus on undermining Ukrainian mobilisation efforts and the legitimacy of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Skibitskyi stressed that Russia’s third line of effort to achieve victory in Ukraine is an ongoing campaign to diplomatically isolate Ukraine.
The US Department of State (DoS) announced on 1 May that it has determined that Russian forces are violating the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC), to which Russia is a signatory.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin met with Tula Oblast Governor and known Wagner Group-affiliate Alexei Dyumin on 2 May, further indicating that Putin may be seeking to reduce Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu’s power by balancing him with rivals.
Putin likely deliberately publicised his meeting with Dyumin following the high-profile arrest of Russian Deputy Defence Minister Timur Ivanov on 24 April and before the presidential inauguration on 7 May, possibly to punish the Shoigu-led MoD for failing to accomplish the Kremlin’s military goals.
The Putin-Dyumin meeting suggests that Putin is likely the responsible decision-maker behind Ivanov’s arrest.
Recent Russian government crackdowns against Central Asian migrants living in and entering Russia following the 22 March Crocus City Hall attack appear to be straining Kyrgyz-Russian relations in addition to Tajik-Russian relations.
The Georgian parliament passed Georgia’s Russian-style „foreign agents“ law in its second reading on 1 May amid continued protests against the law in Tbilisi.
Russian forces recently made confirmed advances west of Avdiivka.
The Russian military may have recruited numerous prisoners with convictions for serious crimes in autumn 2023.

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