Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu today returned to the fray amidst swirling health rumours to admit that the West is stalling his war progress in Ukraine.
‘The US and Western states under its control do everything to prolong the special military operation for as long as possible,’ he said.
‘The increasing volume of foreign arms shipments clearly demonstrate their intent to provoke the Kyiv regime to fight until the last Ukrainian.’
Looking weary, he claimed Russia was systematically liberating Donetsk and Luhansk ‘people’s republics’ in eastern Ukraine.
He told a meeting of top commanders: ‘In the course of the special military operation the Russian army is coping with its tasks the supreme commander-in-chief [Vladimir Putin] identified.
Reports circulated that Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu may have had a heart attack, but he returned to the fray once again to denounce the west for prolonging the war in Ukraine
Shoigu addressed the top military commanders in Moscow after rumours circulated he was missing, but the footage appeared to confirm he is still in change of the Russian army
Shoigu is picture walking side-by-side Vladimir Putin in 2021 before the invasion. Russia pre-empted its new focus on the Donbas region of Ukraine with a series of missile strikes
‘The plan for the liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics is being implemented systematically and measures are being taken to restore life to normal.’
He praised Russian military personnel who displayed ‘courage and heroism’.
His intervention on the war in the first in three weeks as rumours have run wild that he has been sidelined by Putin, or had suffered health problems, with most suggesting heart problems.
There have been suggestions that his role commanding the army has been usurped by General Valery Gerasimov, chief of staff in Russia, and General Aleksandr Dvornikov – aka the ‘Butcher of Syria.
One claim from an exiled Putin foe, Leonid Nevzlin, citing Moscow sources, was that he had suffered a ‘massive heart attack’.
Another version is that it was not so serious but he was treated in intensive care.
One suggestion is that Putin his not convinced he is seriously ill, and had refused an earlier request from Shoigu – his Siberian outdoor vacation buddy – to quit.
He said the Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics will be liberated systematically and that measures are being taken to ‘restore life to normal’ in the region, as missiles landed in Ukraine
Speculation abounded that Shoigu had been replaced by General Valery Gerasimov, chief of staff in Russia, and General Aleksandr Dvornikov, also known as the ‘Butcher of Syria’
Shoigu started his political career in 1990 and has remained close to Putin, avoiding purges
The last time the Defence Minister was definitely seen in public was at the funeral of far-right ultranationalist politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky on 8 April, when he walked slowly.
He was also seen on video conferences with Vladimir Putin and prime minister Mikhail Mishustin at mundane government business, but he did not speak and doubts remain whether the footage was live or canned.
Unlike today, he was not shown speaking.
Amid the rumours, his younger daughter Ksenia, 31, this week sent him a cryptic public message posting on social media: ‘My pride, my guiding star, my dad.’
She added: ‘Proud to be your daughter.’
Shoigu’s youngest daughter, Ksenia, posted on social media: ‘Proud to be your daughter’ at the height of the speculation, after writing ‘my pride, my guiding star, my dad’
Russia has lost more than 40 generals and colonels in the Ukrainian campaign so far, as well as its main battleship the Moskva, while Shoigu’s troops have been accused of genocide in Bucha
In footage apparently shot today Shoigu was not shown walking but was seen reading a prepared statement, which surprisingly admitted the West’s role in holding back the progress of the war.
Shoigu’s troops have come under criticism for ‘genocide’ and are accused of using rape as a weapon of war.
This has resulted in protests in Europe.
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.
Nevzlin, 62, had claimed Shoigu was ‘out of the game’ after suffering heart problems.