Andrey Belousov, Russia’s newly appointed defense minister, was close with private military company (PMC) Wagner’s late founder Yevgeny Prigozhin and supervised his activities, reported Russian news outlet Dossier Center.

The two were close, an unnamed source close to Russia’s defense ministry told Dossier Center, where the news outlet said it confirmed through Prigozhin’s personal calendar and, allegedly, Belousov’s mail archives in its possession.

“Belousov and Prigozhin sometimes sat directly in an embrace – naturally, to [address] each other [as] ‘ti’ [an informal way in Russian to address an acquaintance], ‘Zhen’ [a nickname for Yevgeny] and all that.

“Their working meetings were reminiscent of family gatherings with tea – they informally discussed all the issues, then nodded to the junior employees, and they then compiled everything into a real report,” said the unnamed source.

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Prigozhin had been critical of Russia’s Ministry of Defense and former defense minister Sergei Shoigu before launching a failed mutiny in June 2023, where he died in a plane crash alongside Wagner’s high command in what many suspected to be an assassination

Dossier Center also claimed that among Belousov’s mail archives obtained was Russia’s PMC analysis in 2018, which outlined the importance of PMCs in confrontations between Russia and the West and the expansion of “gray zones” of international conflicts.

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The report also said Wagner PMC is under the Ministry of Defense’s supervision, and all Russian PMCs should fall “under the full control of the state and in accordance with the primary objectives of ensuring security.”

Dossier Center also said Belousov oversaw Prigozhin’s activities in developing the Wagner PMC.

“After all, the system works in such a way that the First never makes a decision: a proposal is received, Belousov studies it and prepares a report (usually it has the signatures of Belousov and Shoigu), then this report ends up with the president,” the sourced added.

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Despite having no military background, the source also said that Belousov was no stranger to the Kremlin’s Ministry of Defense during his tenure as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s economic adviser.

“All proposals to the president on the economic policy of the Ministry of Defense always went through Belousov. Moreover, when he moved to the position of Deputy Prime Minister in the government, these tasks also followed him,” said the unnamed source. 

As reported by Kyiv Post, Belousov is an economist who served as Russia’s first deputy prime minister before his latest nomination from Putin as the defense minister.

On May 12, Putin dismissed his predecessor Shoigu, and nominated Belousov for the role. Many believed this decision was made based on the ministry’s longstanding corruption issues and Putin’s desire to switch to a full wartime economy for a protracted war.

On May 14, Belousov said that part of his goal as the new defense minister, as Putin instructed, is to “[increase] efficiency so that every ruble of budget money that [Russian] citizens ultimately pay brings maximum effect.”

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