Shifting chairs in the Kremlin – Defense Minister Shoigu has to give up his post for a civilian. There are probably internal power struggles behind this. But also new priorities for the Kremlin in times of war.

It didn’t come as a complete surprise, but it was still a bang: more than two years after the start of the war of aggression against Ukraine, Kremlin chief Vladimir Putin fired his defense minister and close confidant Sergei Shoigu. Shoigu’s successor is to be the previous deputy prime minister, Andrei Beloussov, as the upper house of the Russian parliament announced on Sunday evening. Putin’s suggestions for the composition of the new Russian government were received there.

Shoigu is now to become secretary of the National Security Council; Nikolai Patrushev has previously held this position. Patrushev’s new assignment will be announced shortly, said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

A new government is due to be formed after the old one constitutionally resigned following the presidential election in mid-March. In the vote, which was overshadowed by allegations of fraud and manipulation, Putin was declared the clear winner; A few days ago he was officially sworn in for his fifth term in office. There are a few personnel changes in the new government – but none of them are nearly as important as the replacement of Shoigu. Putin, for example, continues to hold on to Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. The 74-year-old Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose replacement had also recently been speculated, will remain in office after 20 years.

An official reason for Shoigu’s dismissal was not given. However, there had been some speculation about a possible dismissal of the 68-year-old, who had been defense minister since 2012. A few weeks ago, one of Shoigu’s deputies, Timur Ivanov, was arrested on corruption charges. Observers interpreted this as a sign of power struggles within the Russian military and security apparatus. Chief of General Staff Valery Gerasimov will remain in his place, Peskov emphasized. The military component in the Defense Ministry will remain unchanged even after Belousov’s appointment.

“Today the winner on the battlefield is the one who is more open to innovations and their implementation,” said Kremlin spokesman Peskov, explaining Putin’s decision to appoint a civilian to head the Defense Ministry. Beloussov is not only a civilian civil servant, but has also worked successfully in politics for many years and advised Putin on economic issues. He is “undoubtedly the best candidate” to expand the Russian defense industry complex and introduce new technologies, Duma deputy Sergei Gavrilov was quoted as saying by Tass.

For some experts, the appointment of Beloussov as Shoigu’s successor also suggests that Putin wants to win the war primarily through production in defense factories. “In his way of thinking, this is logical because the economic bloc has proven to be more effective in the war than the security and military apparatus,” said expert Alexander Baunow. Putin’s strategy is therefore not to put pressure on Ukraine through the mobilization of new soldiers, but through the capacities of the armaments complex.

Kremlin spokesman Peskov also made it clear that defense spending in Russia is now so high that someone like Belousov is the man to control the area. The defense department now occupies a key position in Russia’s security spending, said Peskov. “This requires particularly important decisions.”

According to Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda, Shoigu’s dismissal is intended as a signal to the Russian public. “This is done for the domestic market. This is done in order to continue this war. Let’s have no illusions that Putin is ready for peaceful negotiations,” the head of state of the Baltic EU and NATO country told Lithuanian media reports on Monday night in Vilnius.