Putin’s new choice for defence minister meets with Russian senators

Russia’s new candidate for defence minister vowed to provide better social benefits for veterans but avoided commenting on the situation on the frontlines in Ukraine during a meeting with Russian senators on Monday as they deliberated his appointment.

In the first official statement after his appointment, Andrey Belousov promised to support Russians returning from the frontline in Ukraine, chiefly by providing housing, medical care and fixing the “excessive bureaucracy and paperwork” around benefits.

As noted by BBC News Russian, Belousov’s quotations provided by Russian state news agencies did not include any statements on troop movements in Ukraine or other combat-related topics.

Senate Speaker Valentina Matviyenko and Belousov. Screenshot: Federation Council

Senate Speaker Valentina Matviyenko and Belousov. Screenshot: Federation Council

Belousov’s surprise appointment as defence minister by Vladimir Putin on Sunday put an end to the almost 12-year tenure of his predecessor Sergey Shoigu. Belousov’s candidacy for the post awaits approval from the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of parliament, which will continue its deliberations on Tuesday.

Senators discussed Belousov’s suitability, with Senate Speaker Valentina Matviyenko endorsing Belousov’s candidature, highlighting his status as “a civilian, not a military person”.

Matviyenko attempted to allay “concerns” about Belousov’s lack of military experience by stressing that the Russian military’s combat activities would be under the control of Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov and Vladimir Putin himself.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov explained on Sunday that Putin’s decision to appoint Belousov, an economist with little military experience, was based on a need to innovate and to better align Russia’s economy with the requirements of its war in Ukraine.

Sergey Shoigu, who was appointed minister of defence in 2012, has been appointed secretary of Russia’s Security Council, a consultative body composed of top state officials and heads of security agencies.

The Federation Council has seven days to approve or reject Belousov’s appointment. The upper house’s press service said that it would not be making any public statements on the candidate, but would instead send their decision directly to Vladimir Putin.

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