Mystery deepens over Russia's 'missing' defence minister Sergei Shoigu

Mystery deepens over Russia’s ‘missing’ defence minister Sergei Shoigu as his daughter calls him ‘my guiding star’ in online post amid claims he has been side-lined by Putin and may have had a heart attack

  • General Sergei Shoigu, 66, has been largely sidelined by Putin in recent weeks
  • He was a mainstay in the early days of the invasion but has since disappeared
  • Daughter Ksenia, 31, published a touching tribute to Russia’s defence minister
  • But some believe Shoigu may have had a heart attack, perhaps the result of an attempt on his life 

Mystery deepened today over Vladimir Putin’s ‘missing’ defence minister as his younger daughter sent him a heartfelt public message saying she was ‘proud’ of him.

General Sergei Shoigu, 66, has been sidelined by the Kremlin leader over Russia’s war failures, according to some sources.

Others say he suffered a ‘massive heart attack’, with a leading Putin foe even claiming it was not from natural causes.

More reports said Putin ordered him to operate from a nuclear bunker in the Urals.

Now his daughter Ksenia, 31, has posted on social media: ‘My pride, my guiding star, my dad. Proud to be your daughter.’

The ostensible reason for her sudden message – after an absence from social media – was to mark her father’s 31 years of public service.

Mystery deepened today over Vladimir Putin’s ‘missing’ defence minister Sergei Shoigu (pictured) as his younger daughter sent him a heartfelt public message saying she was ‘proud’ of him

Shoigu’s daughter Ksenia, 31, has posted on social media: ‘My pride, my guiding star, my dad. Proud to be your daughter.’

Ksenia Shoigu, 31, daughter of Russia’s Minister of Defence Sergei Shoigu, with her father

The message from his daughter, a financial expert and charity worker, came amid mounting uncertainty over Shoigu’s role in the war as his troops are accused of ‘genocide’ and using rape as a weapon of war

She said: ’31 years in the government. Exactly a year ago, we shot a whole film about this long journey, and there were so many interesting stories that did not fit there.’

Yet the message from his daughter, a financial expert and charity worker, came amid mounting uncertainty over Shoigu’s role in the war as his troops are accused of ‘genocide’ and using rape as a weapon of war.

Protesters lined up outside the Russian Embassy in Tallinn over the claims of mass rapes of Ukrainian girls and women by Shoigu’s forces.

His main battleship in the Black Sea has been sunk, and Russia has lost more than 40 generals and colonels in a campaign seen as deeply flawed.

Putin had expected his army to be greeted with flowers in Ukraine, and to take control of the country within days, and one report claimed Shoigu had been sidelined and now had only a walk-on part.

Exiled business tycoon and Putin foe Leonid Nevzlin, 62, claimed Shogun was ‘out of the game’ after suffering a ‘massive heart attack’.

‘He suddenly had a massive heart attack,’ he claimed, citing his own sources in Moscow.

‘He is in intensive care, connected to devices.

‘Rumour has it that the heart attack could not have occurred from natural causes.’

Yet Shoigu – a regular Siberian holiday partner of Putin – was seen last week in several online government meetings not directly related to the war chaired by either the president or prime minister Mikhail Mishustin.

Sergei Shoigu and Vladimir Putin on Siberian vacation in September, 2021

First pictures showing Sergei Shoigu at the start of his political career, in Moscow, in 1990.

First pictures showing Sergei Shoigu at the start of his political career, in Moscow, in 1990

Protesters lined up outside the Russian Embassy in Tallinn over the claims of mass rapes of Ukrainian girls and women by Shoigu’s forces

However, he was not shown speaking at these sessions, leading to speculation that canned – old – footage of him was inserted into the conferences.

The last definite sighting of him was at the funeral of far-right ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky on 8 April.

The defence minister moved stiffly.

Nevzlin did not say when he believes Shoigu had a heart attack, the latest in a succession of rumours over his medical condition.

Yet if Shoigu is in fact healthy and attending these government meetings on subjects such as the development of the Arctic, Russia’s ‘humanitarian policy’ and payments to healthcare workers treating Covid patients, it appears he is no longer in day-to-day control of the war.

Sergei Shoigu at Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s mourning ceremony

Shoigu appears to have been displaced by General Valery Gerasimov (pictured), chief of staff in Russia, and General Aleksandr Dvornikov – aka the ‘Butcher of Syria’.

Amid a longer earlier absence from view, Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in late March: ‘The defence minister has a lot to take care of at the moment. There is a special military operation going on.

‘This is not the moment for media activity.’

At the time he was not attending mundane government meetings, as the Kremlin lately shows him to be doing.

But now – with his forces in retreat from Kyiv and seeking instead a bloody new push in Donbas – Shoigu’s role is in increasing doubt.

He appears to have been displaced by General Valery Gerasimov, chief of staff in Russia, and General Aleksandr Dvornikov – aka the ‘Butcher of Syria’.

Putin’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu has had a ‘massive heart attack not from natural causes’ and TWENTY generals ‘have been arrested’ over bungled invasion

  • Shoigu is thought to have suffered a heart attack possibly caused by foul play
  • Russia’s defence minister, 66, has been a close ally of Putin ever since 2012
  • He was a mainstay early in the invasion but has been largely absent for weeks
  • Russian-Israeli businessmen Leonid Nevzlin made the extraordinary claim
  • If his claims prove to be true, it would confirm suspicions of a major rift between the isolated Russian president and his closest advisers and military leaders 
  • Nevzlin was once one of Russia’s richest men but fled the country in 2003 when Putin and the Kremlin decided to seize his oil company 

A Russian-Israeli businessman has claimed Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu has suffered a heart attack, which he suspects was caused by foul play.

Shoigu, who has been Putin’s right hand man and leader of the Russian army for a decade, was a mainstay in the early weeks of the war in Ukraine but recently disappeared from regular Kremlin briefings.

There had been suspicions of tensions between Putin and Shoigu in late March over the invasion’s slow progress, with US intelligence suggesting the pair fell out when Putin learned of the extent of Russian losses in Ukraine.

But Shoigu, 66, is now thought to be in intensive care after suffering ‘a massive heart attack’ which ‘could not have occurred due to natural causes’, according to Leonid Nevzlin, suggesting Putin’s longtime ally may have been the subject of an assassination attempt ordered by his boss.

Shoigu was last seen on yesterday on a video conference with Putin and other ministers about the development of the Arctic but did not speak, and there is speculation the Kremlin is using previously recorded footage of Shoigu since his withdrawal from public appearances weeks ago.

Nevzlin, a former media mogul and top oil executive, is one of several Russian businessmen forced to flee when they were targeted by the Kremlin in 2003, after Putin decided to seize the Yukos oil company. 

He was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment in 2008 as the Kremlin persecuted Yukos’ top executives, and last month announced he was renouncing his Russian passport and declared ‘everything Putin touches dies’.


Shoigu (R), who has been Putin’s right hand man and leader of the Russian army for a decade, was a mainstay in the early weeks of the war in Ukraine but recently disappeared from regular Kremlin briefings. US intelligence suggested the pair fell out in late March when Putin (L) learned of the extent of Russian losses in Ukraine

Russian-Israeli businessman Leonid Nevzlin has claimed Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu has suffered a heart attack, which he suspects was caused by foul play. Nevzlin, a former media mogul and top oil executive, is one of several Russian businessmen forced to flee when they were targeted by the Kremlin in 2003, after Putin decided to seize the Yukos oil company

Vladimir Putin and Sergei Shougi at the Victory Day parade 2019. Shoigu was appointed Russia’s defence minister in 2012 and has been one of Putin’s closest allies for the past decade

Citing sources in Moscow, Nevzlin today declared: ‘Shoigu is out of the game, and may be disabled if he survives.

‘Rumor has it that a heart attack could have occurred not due to natural causes.’

He went on to say that 20 Russian generals have been arrested in Russia and charged with embezzling up to 10 billion dollars allocated to the war effort in Ukraine.

Nevzlin alleged that ‘all the headquarters’ had been arrested and had been syphoning funds destined to prop up Ukraine’s ‘Russian liberators’ since 2014, after the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of conflict in the Donbas.

‘Everything is clear here – the total embezzlement of funds for the preparation of [taking over the leadership of Ukraine]. Since 2014, about $10 billion (USD) allocated by Putin for the preparation of the blitzkrieg has been stolen.’

If the exiled businessman’s claims prove to be true, it would confirm suspicions of a major disconnect between Putin and the highest ranking members of Russia’s army and security services. 

US intelligence in late March claimed that Putin – who has become increasingly isolated in recent months – was being kept in the dark about the invasion by his advisers, Russian foreign military intelligence (GRU) and the army’s top generals.

‘We would concur with the conclusion that Mr. Putin has not been fully informed by his Ministry of Defense, at every turn over the last month,’ Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at the time.

Shoigu was appointed Russia’s defence minister in 2012 and has been one of Putin’s closest allies for the past decade.

The pair are known to have holidayed together regularly and are believed to have shared a close personal friendship outside of their respective roles.

But as the leader of Russia’s army, Shoigu was likely to be the first person to feel the brunt of the Russian president’s anger when he learned of the army’s lack of success in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s armed forces claim that close to 20,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the invasion began on February 24, with even conservative Western estimates suggesting that over 10,000 troops have died. 

Shoigu (pictured with daughter Ksenia) was appointed Russia’s defence minister in 2012 and has been one of Putin’s closest allies for the past decade. The pair are known to have holidayed together regularly and are believed to have shared a close personal friendship outside of their respective roles

Arkady Dvorkovich, who once served as Russia’s deputy prime minister and is currently chairman of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), criticised the war with Ukraine. Nevzlin said he is now subject to ‘criminal charges’ in Russia

Nevzlin also claimed that the Kremlin has launched a criminal case against long-serving ex-deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich, 50.

Dvorkovich is one of the highest-ranking Russian officials to have criticised the war in Ukraine, saying in March that his thoughts were with Ukrainian civilians subjected to violence.

But he stepped down from his position as chairman of Russia’s Skolkovo science and technology founation just days after his statement, as Russian lawmakers labelled him a traitor.

‘[Dvorkovich] is expected to testify against his colleagues and friends,’ Nevzlin said.

‘Sources in the FSB say that if he does not make a deal with the investigation, he will be transferred to either the Matrosskaya Tishina or Lefortovo pre-trial detention centres.’

Leonid Nevzlin, the exiled partner of Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, poses for a portrait at his home on Wednesday, June 15, 2005 in Herzlya, Israel

Before fleeing Russia for Israel to escape persecution by the Kremlin in 2003, Leonid Nevzlin was one of Russia’s leading businessmen who played a major part in Russia’s transition from communism to a market economy amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

In the late 1980s, Nevzlin was a deputy director of Russia’s Centres for Scientific and Technical Creativity, and in 1989 became president of Menatep Bank – one of the first private banks created by fellow businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky just prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

He went on to head up one of Russia’s top news agencies and became a vice chairman of the board of directors for the Yukos oil company, which was a subsidiary of Khodorkovsky’s Menatep Group.  

Nevzlin was named on Forbes magazine’s list of the top 100 wealthiest men in 2003 and 2004, but had already fled Russia along with Khodorkovsky when the Kremlin decided to expropriate Yukos.

After being sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008 on charges widely thought to be trumped up, Nevzlin became one of the Kremlin’s leading critics, and began to work with European lawmakers to build a case against Putin.

In 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled in favour of Nevzlin and his colleagues, calling the actions of the Russian state ‘a ruthless campaign to destroy Yukos and to expropriate its assets’, and awarded billions of dollars in damages.

Nevzlin’s claims that Shoigu may have been the target of a Putin ordered attack come just weeks after his former business partner and fellow Russian exile Mikhail Khodorkovsky implored high-profile Russians to speak out about the atrocities being committed by the Kremlin’s forces in Ukraine.   

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon who fled Russia to London in 2013 after falling foul of Putin and being jailed for nearly a decade, said high-profile Russians who left amid the invasion of Ukraine cannot stay silent about the atrocities being committed by Russian forces 

‘Public figures cannot leave quietly and then sit quietly. If you have left, then you should publicly dissociate yourself,’ Khodorkovsky told The Washington Post in an interview in late March.

‘You should step up to the microphone and say that Putin is a war criminal and that what he is doing is a crime, that the war against Ukraine is a crime.

‘Say this, and then we’ll understand that Putin doesn’t have a hold over you,’ Khodorkovsky continued.

The exiled oligarch’s comments referred to a number of Russian elites, who since the invasion began have left their homeland but have thus far not openly condemned Putin’s war.

 

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