The Russian Defense Ministry has undergone significant personnel changes, with President Vladimir Putin on Monday, June 17, dismissing four long-time deputies of former Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) assesses that these personnel shifts indicate Putin’s strategy to fortify his power base by positioning loyalists and relatives in key roles.

One of four dismissed officials is Ruslan Tsalikov, Shoigu’s closest ally and chief deputy who managed media and PR. This marks the final exit of Shoigu’s team from the ministry.

In their place, Leonid Gornin, former Deputy Finance Minister overseeing military spending, steps in as new Defense Minister Belousov’s main deputy.

Pavel Fradkov, son of ex-Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov, has also taken on a role in the Ministry, focusing on property management and military construction.

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Additionally, Anna Tsivileva, widely referred to in the media as Putin’s niece, has been appointed to address social and housing issues.

According to the newspaper Project, her maiden name is Putin, and her father is the President’s cousin.

Tsivileva leads the Defenders of the Fatherland Veterans Support Fund, which supports veterans from Russia’s “special military operation.” In 2018, she acquired a 70% stake in Kolmar, one of Russia’s largest coal mining companies.

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Her husband, Sergey Tsivilev, recently advanced from governor of the Kemerovo Region to Minister of Energy.

Oleg Saveliev, who once served as Minister of Affairs for annexed Crimea, will now head the office of the Minister of Defense.

These changes follow the appointment of Andrey Belousov, a former adviser to Putin and first deputy prime minister, as the new defense minister in May.

Belousov, an economist, replaced Sergei Shoigu amid a series of criminal investigations targeting high-ranking military officials, including Deputy Minister Timur Ivanov.

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ISW noted that Putin appears to be grooming potential successors from among his family and the children of Kremlin elites. This move comes as Putin seeks to consolidate his control under the conditions of a totalitarian regime.

The ISW also highlighted the increasing appointment of economists to senior positions within the Ministry of Defense, reflecting Putin’s focus on enhancing Russia’s defense industrial base.

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