Putin Fired Four Deputy Defense Ministers, Appoints Relatives As Deputy Defense Minister

New Russian deputy defence minister Anna Tsivileva is the daughter of a late cousin of the Russian president and is married to the country's energy minister Credit: ALEXANDER KAZAKOV/AFP

Vladimir Putin has sacked four deputy defence ministers and appointed one of his relatives to the role as he carries out a sweeping purge of officials in charge during the botched invasion of Ukraine.

Anna Tsivileva, the daughter of a late cousin of the Russian president, is married to the country’s energy minister and is sanctioned by the British government after using her ties to Putin to become the president of a coal mining business.

Ms Tsivileva, whose maiden name was Putina, also runs the “Defenders of the Fatherland” fund for war veterans

Also promoted in the reshuffle on Monday was Pavel Fradkov, the son of one of Putin’s former prime ministers. Mr Fradkov had previously worked in the presidential administration.

Their promotion comes as Putin looks to put more trust in the children of close associates, rather than outsiders, after a series of disasters in the early months of the war, analysts say.

“This is nepotism and collective succession in action. Putin is not yet like Kadyrov, but he trusts relatives, children of establishment members and security guards,” said Andrey Kolesnikov, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace, referring to the Chechen leader who has lined up his sons as his successors.

Leonid Gornin, previously Russia’s first deputy finance minister, was also promoted to be first deputy defence minister in the reshuffle “to increase the transparency of financial flows”, a further sign of a shift by Putin towards favouring economists over generals to run the ministry of defence.

Putin has blamed incompetent generals working in the ministry of defence for his army’s failure to capture Kyiv by mid-March 2022 and the subsequent rout from outside Kharkiv, but he has been feeling more confident this year as his forces advance slowly along the front line.

Last month, Putin sacked Sergei Shoigu as defence minister and arrested his associates for corruption. In Mr Shoigu’s place, he promoted Andrey Belousov, one of the Kremlin’s top grey-suited economists to run the ministry of defence.

Kremlin propagandists hailed the reshuffle as another Putin masterstroke to impose more accountability on the ministry of defence, which he has repositioned as the fulcrum of Russia’s economy in preparation for a long-term confrontation with Nato.

“For now, this only means that Shoigu’s entire team is leaving,” said Sergei Markov, a former speechwriter for Putin. “The new deputies are the ones I know personally and they are normal guys. The whole country wishes them success.”

However, John Foreman, previously Britain’s defence attaché in Russia, doubted whether the incoming Russian team would greatly improve Russia’s military.

“I’m not convinced Belousov and his team will be able to really get to grips with the ministry of defence as they don’t really understand how defence works and have never worked in it,” he said. “Is this just rearranging the deckchairs?”

According to an investigation in 2022 by a Russian opposition media unit, Ms Tsivileva’s father was Yevgeny Putin, Putin’s cousin.

She is married to Sergey Tsivilev, Russia’s energy minister and the governor of the coal-rich Kemerovo region. She is also the owner of a 70 per cent stake in Kolmar Group, a valuable coal mining company.

In June 2022, the British government sanctioned Ms Tsivileva, saying that she “significantly benefited from her relationship with Putin”.

Her appointment as a deputy defence minister comes 10 days after she and Putin’s two daughters gave speeches at the St Petersburg Economic Forum in an unusual high-profile set piece that highlighted the increased profile and promotions of sons and daughters of Kremlin insiders.

Mr Fradkov is the son of Mikhail Fradkov, Putin’s prime minister between 2004 and 2007 and then head of Russia’s notorious SVR foreign intelligence service until 2016.

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