FILE - Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu leave Red Square after the Victory Day military parade in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, May 9, 2024, marking the 79th anniversary of the end of World War II. Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed removing Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu from his post. Putin nominated First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov for the role. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, File)
Sergei Shoigu (right) is a long term friend and ally of Putin’s (Picture: AP)

Vladimir Putin has raised eyebrows after suddenly firing his longtime friend, Sergei Shoigu, as defence minister.

Shoigu, 68, was Russia’s longest serving minister, serving in government long before Putin became president, and a close ally to Putin.

It’s thought Shoigu will be replaced with little-known Andrey Belousov, an economist with no known military or security experience.

The move has been seen as a major snub to the man Putin put in charge of his war against Ukraine.

But Shoigu hasn’t been completely cast out into the cold as he’s set to be put in charge of the Russian security council, replacing ex-FSB chief and anti-Western conspiracy theorist Nikolai Patrushev.

Patrushev, 72, is seen as a key architect of a war that has seen 450,000 Russians killed or injured, and he’s set to be given a new job in the coming days – though the details haven’t been confirmed yet.

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TOPSHOT - In this pool photograph distributed by Russian state agency Sputnik, Russia's President Vladimir Putin meets with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu at the Kremlin in Moscow on February 20, 2024. (Photo by Alexander KAZAKOV / POOL / AFP) (Photo by ALEXANDER KAZAKOV/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Shoigu has instead been put in charge of the Russian security council (Picture: Alexander KAZAKOV/POOL/AFP)
Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov attends a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin, in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2023. Russian President Vladimir Putin has proposed removing Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu from his post. Putin nominated First Deputy Prime Minister Andrey Belousov for the role. His appointment must now be approved by Russian lawmakers. (Gavriil Grigorov, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)
Andrei Belousov is Russia’s new defence secretary (Picture: AP)

Russia’s new defence secretary was acting premier for three weeks when PM Mikhail Mishustin was struck down with coronavirus in 2020.

It’s hoped Belousov, a close ally of Putin’s, will root out corruption and reform the stagnant defence ministry – but it’s not known how this will be achieved due to his lack of experience as a military strategist.

Putin has appointed people to a number of new positions in what’s thought to have been his largest cabinet shake-up in years.

Patrushev’s son Dmitry, 46, becomes deputy premier combined with his previous role as agriculture minister, and Boris Kovalchuk will become chairman of the Accounts Chamber.

But Sergey Naryshkin, 69, remains director of the SVR Foreign Intelligence Service, with Alexander Bortnikov, 72, still head of the FSB – the two key security roles in his regime. 

Swirling rumours that General Sergei ‘Armageddon’ Surovikin would be brought back as chief of staff were denied, with Putin’s spokesperson confirming that General Valery Gerasimov, 68, would remain at the helm.

And the Kremlin sought to stress that Shoigu remained pivotal to the war, and will continue to fulfil some military functions. 

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