(Moscow) Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, in office since 2012, was fired on Sunday evening by Vladimir Putin in a surprise in-depth reshuffle, a few days after the inauguration of the Russian president for a fifth term in the Kremlin and after more than two years of conflict in Ukraine.

Sergei Shoigu is replaced by Andreï Belooussov, an economist, and becomes secretary of the Security Council, a position previously occupied by Nikolaï Patrushev, who is dismissed from his position, according to a decree published by the Kremlin.

This reshuffle comes at a time when the Russian army is advancing in the Ukrainian region of Kharkiv, a few days after launching a ground assault, and is increasing its pressure in the Donbass, around Chassiv Iar.

“Shoïgu will continue to work in this area, which he knows well, which he knows very well from the inside, with his colleagues and his partners in his former workplace,” the presidential spokesperson quickly justified. Russian, Dmitri Peskov, cited by Russian agencies.

Sergei Shoigu has been Minister of Defense in Russia since 2012 and personified the stability of the various governments under Vladimir Putin, just like the head of diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, who retains his post as Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Despite a series of humiliating setbacks for Russian troops in Ukraine in 2022, following the initial offensive on February 24 of that year, Vladimir Putin maintained his confidence in Sergei Shoigu, despite criticism from part of the war wing of the army.

This was particularly the case following the abortive revolt of fighters from Wagner’s paramilitary group, led by Yevgeni Prigozhin, in June 2023.

Andreï Beloussov, his replacement, has training as an economist and no military background. He was first vice-president of the last government since 2020 and one of Vladimir Putin’s main economic advisers in recent years.

The future role of Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Security Council since 2008 and before that head of the FSB during Vladimir Putin’s first two terms in the Kremlin, will be communicated to him “in the coming days”, Dmitri Peskov also specified.

The head of foreign intelligence (SVR), Sergei Naryshkin, retains his prerogatives, as does the head of the powerful Russian security services (FSB), Alexander Bortnikov.

Representatives of the State Duma and the Federation Council, the two chambers of the Russian Parliament, must ratify these changes on Monday and Tuesday, a formality as they are dominated by United Russia, the party of Vladimir Putin, in the absence of any tolerated opposition.