Key Takeaways from the ISW:

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin replaced Sergei Shoigu with Andrei Belousov as Russian Minister of Defense on May 12, moving Shoigu to the position of Security Council Secretary in place of Nikolai Patrushev. These high-level reshuffles following the Russian presidential election strongly suggest that Putin is taking significant steps towards mobilizing the Russian economy and defense industrial base (DIB) to support a protracted war in Ukraine and possibly prepare for a future confrontation with NATO.
  • Belousov's nearly decade-long tenure as an economic minister in the Russian federal government and his more recent involvement managing various domestic DIB innovation and drone projects, prepare him well to lead the struggling Russian MoD apparatus.
  • Shoigu's replacement of Patrushev as Security Council Secretary is in line with Putin's general pattern of quietly sidelining high-level security officials by granting them peripheral roles within the Russian security sphere rather than simply firing them.
  • Russian offensive efforts to seize Vovchansk (northeast of Kharkiv City) are in large part a consequence of the tacit Western policy that Ukrainian forces cannot use Western-provided systems to strike legitimate military targets within Russia.
  • Ukrainian forces continue to conduct repeat strikes on Russian oil and defense industrial infrastructure, prompting Russian milbloggers to complain about Russian forces' clear and continued inability to defend against these strikes.
  • Several German politicians from different political parties expressed support for using NATO air defense systems stationed in NATO member states to shoot down Russian drones over western Ukraine.
  • Russian forces recently made confirmed advances near Lyptsi and Vovchansk in northern Kharkiv Oblast.
  • Former Roscosmos (Russian space agency) head and ultranationalist figure Dmitry Rogozin highlighted Russian forces' continued difficulty repelling Ukrainian drones on the frontline.

Authors: Riley Bailey, Angelica Evans, Nicole Wolkov, Christina Harward, and Frederick W. Kagan.

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