Before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin had a fondness for Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. They spent vacations together, climbed mountains and visited the taiga (forest zone in northern Russia).

During these vacations, Putin would have been able to discuss with Shoigu the plan for invading Ukraine and the readiness of the Russian army for the rapid capture of Ukrainian cities.

On Aug. 29, the British Defense intelligence Update on Twitter reported, with reference to Russian media outlets, that Shoigu has been “side-lined within the Russian leadership. It concludes that due to the problems Russia is facing in its war against Ukraine, Shoigu has likely been removed and that operational commanders are informing Putin directly about the progress of the war.

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People close to the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces told Russian journalists from media outlet Important Stories that the “special operation” went wrong, that the blitzkrieg in Ukraine failed, and that Russian troops have suffered heavy losses.

He even tried to salvage the situation by taking a direct role in the positioning of troops. Putin began bypassing Shoigu to confer with generals who – unlike Shoigu – had direct military experience in leading combat conditions, such as in Syria and other hot spots.

According to British Intelligence, Russian officers and soldiers probably regularly ridicule Shoigu’s lack of direct war experience and ineffectual and out-of-touch leadership – a reputation he has likely struggled to overcome. Shoigu spent most of his career in the construction sector and the Ministry of Emergency Situations.

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According to Important Stories, Russian army officials have confirmed that there is a catastrophic shortage of soldiers and officers at the front, meaning they are resigned to making painfully slow progress.

On Aug. 24, Shoigu claimed that Russia is deliberately slowing down its military campaign in Ukraine, driven by the need to reduce civilian casualties. Later, British intelligence reported that Shoigu’s statement was “almost certainly deliberate disinformation.”

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