Who is Andrei Belousov, Putin’s choice to become Russia’s new defence minister?

With a largely stalled war in Ukraine that has so far resulted in a reported 355,000 casualties, Russian president decides to rearrange deck chairs in move analysts say shows instability at the top of Kremlin regime

Matt Mathers
Monday 13 May 2024 11:26
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Related video: Putin lays flowers at Tomb of Unknown Soldier as Russia marks Victory Day

Vladimir Putin has sacked his defence secretary and long-time ally Sergei Shoigu in a shock move that analysts say shows instability at the top of his Kremlin regime.

With a largely stalled war in Ukraine that has so far resulted in a reported 355,000 casaulties, the Russian president has decided to shuffle the deck and is on the hunt for a new military chief.

Putin has nominated civilian Andrei Belousov, a former deputy prime minister who specialises in economics, for the job.

Mr Belousov, 65, graduated from the Faculty of Economics of the Moscow State University in 1981 with distinction.

File: Andrey Belousov is Putin’s top pick for the job

He wrote his dissertation on "An imitative approach to modeling interrelated processes for the formation and use of working capital."

In 2000, he was appointed a non-staff adviser to the Russian prime minister and joined the economy ministry as deputy minister six years later.

From 2008-2012, he was director of the department for economics and finance in the government apparatus, the same years Putin served as prime minister.

In 2012, he was made economics minister. From 2013 until 2020, Mr Belousov served as adviser to the Russian president.

From 2020, he worked as first deputy prime minister. When prime minister Mikhail Mishustin got Covid in 2020, Mr Belousov briefly took on the prime minister’s duties while Mr Mishustin recovered.

In 2017, Russian media outlet RBC said Mr Belousov was one of the officials who convinced Putin that the digital economy and blockchain were crucial to the future.

"I can say that what a country with sovereignty should definitely have is the possession of its own means.

“Who are we, where are we from, where are we going? ... We have no other option for our country but to acquire or reproduce this identity," Mr Belousov told RBC in an interview in 2023.

According to RBC, he practised sambo and karate in his youth and did not serve in the armed forces. He is thought to be close to Putin.

Shoigu meanwhile has been moved to become the head of Russia’s Security Council at the expense of Nikolai Patrushev.

Putin with Shoigu, who is set to be replaced as defence minister in a surprise reshuffle announced by the Kremlin (EPA)

Christopher Steele, a former MI6 intelligence officer, said the reshuffle suggested there was "serious instability right in the heart" of Russia’s regime.

He told Sky News that Patrushev being removed from his role as secretary of the Russian Security Council was "astonishing".

"It’s important to understand that he’s been one of Putin’s closest allies, former head of the FSB and so on for many years... and was rated by people to be probably the second most powerful man in Russia after Putin himself,” he said.

"I think what this indicates is not just a reshuffle along normal governmental lines. It’s really quite serious instability right in the heart of this regime”.

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