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Russian Defense Minister change: Kremlin's preparations for protracted war in Ukraine

Russian Defense Minister change: Kremlin's preparations for protracted war in Ukraine Photo: Candidate of Russia's new Minister of Defense, Andrey Belousov (Russian media)

The nomination of Andrey Belousov as Russia's new Minister of Defense is associated with the high level of corruption within the Ministry and signals the Kremlin's preparation for a protracted war with Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported.

The report noted that Belousov served as Minister of Economy in the federal government for about ten years. During this time, he was involved in various domestic innovation projects in the defense industry and drones, which prepared him well to lead the Russian Ministry of Defense apparatus, which is currently in a difficult situation.

ISW reminded that the defense department under Sergey Shoygu's leadership has struggled with high-level corruption allegations and bureaucratic inertia, facing constant destructive criticism from Russian military observers.

"Belousov has a stronger reputation for being an effective technocrat, and insider sources have claimed that he has a positive relationship with Putin. Belousov met with Putin in November 2023 to discuss DIB projects and technological cooperation and has spoken to Putin about issues with Russia's domestic drone production," the message said.

The report noted that Belousov recently highlighted a state order project worth 4.4 billion rubles (approximately $48 million) for drone production by 2030 and plans for financial support for drone manufacturers, developer training, and operator training.

The focus on maximizing technological innovations and production volumes in the Russian defense industry, especially in drones, will likely be precious for Kremlin military efforts. Lately, it has been struggling with the gap between Russian drone production and modern battlefield realities.

In January 2023, Belousov personally announced that Russia had completed the Unmanned Aviation Systems project, which allocates 696 billion rubles (about $7 billion) to produce 32,000 drones annually by 2030.

"Putin likely intends Belousov to use his experience in a civilian government position to bridge federal economic policies with the Russian MoD agenda, thereby more fully mobilizing the Russian DIB at a larger and longer-term scale and integrating it with domestic economic policy. This effort sets conditions for a fuller economic mobilization, suggesting that the Kremlin continues to prepare for a protracted war in Ukraine," the ISW report said.

New Russian Minister of Defense

On Sunday, May 12, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin proposed to the government to appoint First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation Andrey Belousov as the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation.

On May 13-14, the Federation Council plans to consider Belousov's candidacy for the position of Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation.

Details about the new candidate

Andrey Belousov was born on March 17, 1959, into the family of Soviet economist Rem Belousov.

In 1981, he graduated from the Economics Faculty of Lomonosov Moscow State University. From 1981 to 1986, he worked at the Central Economic-Mathematical Institute of the USSR Academy of Sciences.

Since 1999, he has been a member of the Board of the Ministry of Economy of the Russian Federation. He has advised Russian Prime Ministers: Yevgeny Primakov, Sergei Stepashin, Mikhail Kasyanov, and Mikhail Fradkov.

In 2008, Putin appointed Belousov the Director of the government's Department of Economics and Finance, and from 2012 to 2013, he served as the Minister of Economic Development.

From 2013 to 2020, Belousov was an Assistant to Putin. On January 21, 2020, he was appointed as the First Deputy Prime Minister of the Russian Federation in Mikhail Mishustin's government.

Belousov is a civilian without a military rank. His appointment was explained by the necessity to open the ministry "for innovations and advanced ideas." According to Putin's press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, "it is important to integrate the economy of the power bloc into the Russian economy to correspond to the dynamics of the moment."

The change of the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation coincided with the advance of Russian troops in the Kharkiv region. Strong battles and shelling are ongoing at the border, and aggressors have already seized several villages and are approaching Volchansk.