Some sources claim missing General Sergei Shoigu, 66, suffered a “massive heart attack” while others say Russia President Vladimir Putin ordered him to operate from a nuclear bunker
The mystery has deepened over Vladimir Putin’s “missing” defence minister after his daughter shared a heartfelt message saying she was “proud” of him.
General Sergei Shoigu, 66, has been sidelined by the Russia president over war failures, some sources have said.
Others claim Shoigu suffered a “massive heart attack”, with a leading Putin foe even suggesting it was not from natural causes.
While further reports said Putin ordered him to operate from a nuclear bunker in Russia’s Ural Mountains.
Speaking on social media, Shoigu’s daughter Knesia, 31, said: “My pride, my guiding star, my dad. Proud to be your daughter.”
The reason for Knesia’s sudden message, after her absence online, was supposedly to mark her dad’s 31 years of public service.
“Thirty one 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,” she added.
But 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 he 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.
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.
Ksenia Shoigu/east2west news)
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.
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.