Putin removes close ally Sergei Shoygu as defence minister | World | News

Vladimir Putin has made a shock reshuffle of his Kremlin government, removing Sergei Shoygu as his defence minister.

The Russian leader has proposed for former Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov to take over the position.

Putin has also dismisses Nikolai Patrushev from position as Security Council Secretary and appointed Shoygu, a long-time ally of his to the new role.

Parliament’s approval of the new appointment is all but guaranteed, as there is virtually no opposition after Putin secured another six years as president.

The changes come more than two years into the war in Ukraine which has dragged on far longer than Russia had expected.

But they also come amid a surprise offensive launched by Russia in an attempt to claim Kharkiv.

Moscow’s forces captured five villages in a renewed ground assault in northeastern Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry said Saturday,

Ukrainian officials didn’t confirm whether Russia had taken the villages, which lie in a contested “gray zone” on the border of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region and Russia.

Ukrainian journalists reported that the villages of Borysivka, Ohirtseve, Pylna and Strilecha were taken by Russian troops on Friday. Russia said the village of Pletenivka was also taken.

In an evening statement Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said fighting was still ongoing in the settlements of Strilecha and Pletenivka, as well as Krasne, Morokhovets, Oliinykove, Lukyantsi and Hatyshche.

“Our troops are carrying out counterattacks there for a second day, protecting Ukrainian territory,” he said.

The renewed assault on the region has forced more than 1,700 civilians residing in settlements near the fighting to flee, according to Ukrainian authorities.

It comes after Russia stepped up attacks in March targeting energy infrastructure and settlements, which analysts predicted were a concerted effort by Moscow to shape conditions for an offensive.

On Saturday, Russia continued to pummel Vovchansk with airstrikes and Grad rockets as police and volunteers raced to evacuate residents.

At least 20 people were evacuated to safety in a nearby village. Police said that 900 people had been evacuated the previous day.

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