The “disappearance” of one of his closest associates, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, raises questions about what has been going on in Vladimir Putin’s inner circle since the start of the war in Ukraine.
According to a report in the Ukrainian newspaper Pravda in collaboration with London-based investigative journalism websites, Shoigu has been making public appearances since March 11, which means that he has been missing for the last 12 of the 28 days of the war in Ukraine.
Ukraine newspapers cite Russian sources: Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu has disappeared from public view since March 11, reportedly with “heart problems.” https://t.co/00KXatWw2J
– David Frum (@davidfrum) March 23, 2022
His absence is resounding as Shoigu has so far not had what we would call a discreet presence in the Russian media. Characteristic of the importance he attached to the presence of his ministry and himself personally in the media is, as mentioned in the Ukrainian report, that since he took over the reins of the Ministry of Defense, the press service has been significantly strengthened by experienced media executives.
Until March 11, Shoigu appeared daily on Russian television. The information of the report states that he is facing health problems and more specifically heart problems, as a person from his personal environment has reportedly stated in the newspaper.
March 11: The last appearance – March 18: The last report
On March 11, when the Russian public saw him for the first time, Shoigu awarded Russian army officers who took part in – according to official Kremlin phraseology – Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine to “demilitarize” it. the “de-Nazification” of the country.
So if on March 11 the Russians saw Soigu on their screens for the last time, the Kremlin gave another sign of life for the state defense minister on March 18th.
A statement posted on the Kremlin’s official website said President Vladimir Putin discussed “the progress of the special operation in Ukraine” with the permanent members of Russia’s National Security Council. According to the announcement, Soigu attended the meeting, from which, however, neither videos nor photos were made public.
The same day, state-run Channel One – which became widely known when TV producer Marina Osyanikova raised banners against the war and against Putin during a live broadcast of the evening news bulletin – aired a report on Shoigu’s commendations. .
Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu vanishes ‘with heart problems’ https://t.co/uLnq2DFJ5F @MailOnline
– Simon Richards #StandWithUkraine 🇺🇦🇬🇧 (@simplysimontfa) March 23, 2022
Although the TV report mentioned that the ceremony had taken place that day, ie on March 18, the shots are identical to those in the last video of March 11.
The last post on the website of the Ministry of Defense is dated March 11.
As for his beloved daughter Xenia, although she remains active on her social networks, a photo with her dad has too many days to show to her followers.
Another disappearance: Chief of General Staff of the Army Gerasimov is also missing
Shoigu does not appear to be the only “disappeared” in Putin’s inner circle.
The case of Russian Army Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov is similar.
Putin against intelligence services
“Ever since the war began, Putin has attacked the intelligence services. The war began after the infamous meeting of the Russian Security Council, in which Putin publicly rebuked the director of the SVR, the intelligence service, which is considered the successor to the KGB.
Two and a half weeks later, we learned about the foreign intelligence service of the Russian FSB. “We now know of two people, two senior officials in this department, who were interrogated and placed under house arrest,” Andrei Soldatov told The New Yorker.
Andrei Soldatov concludes that “Putin does not believe that the overall plan of invasion or its military dimensions was necessarily wrong. But he is outraged by how much information has reached America.”
“Last week, we learned that the deputy head of the National Guard had to resign and would probably face some sort of criminal investigation. And it’s not just the National Guard. He is a former security official close to Putin before joining the National Guard.
Andrei Soldatov, an investigative journalist and Russian intelligence expert, has lived in London since 2020 and co-authored Irina Borogan with The Compatriots: The Brutal and Chaotic History of Russian Exiles, Immigrants and Agents Abroad. while they are also the founders of the investigative journalism site Agentura.ru, which has now been excluded from the Kremlin.