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Putin replaces long-time defense minister Sergei Shoigu as Ukraine war heats up in its 3rd year

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday replaced his longtime defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, in a cabinet reshuffle that comes as Putin begins his fifth term and while its war against neighboring Ukraine is in its third year. In accordance with Russian law, the entire Russian cabinet resigned on Tuesday following Putin’s resounding inauguration for a new term in the Kremlin.

Most cabinet members were widely expected to keep their jobs, but Shoigu’s fate seemed uncertain.

Putin signed a decree on Sunday appointing Shoigu as secretary of the Russian Security Council, the Kremlin announced. The appointment, widely seen as a demotion, was announced shortly after Putin nominated Andrei Belousov, an economist, to become the country’s new defense chief.

In this photograph distributed by Russian state agency Sputnik, Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during the Victory Day military parade on Red Square in central Moscow on May 9, 2024.


The announcement of Shoigu’s new role comes as 13 people were killed and 20 others injured in the Russian border town of Belgorod, where a 10-story building partially collapsed after what Russian authorities called a Ukrainian bombing . Ukraine has not commented on the incident.

Belousov’s candidacy will have to be approved by Parliament’s upper house, the Federation Council, but Putin’s will is rarely, if ever, challenged by the council or any other government entity in Russia.

The announcement came as thousands of other civilians fled a new Russian ground offensive in northeastern Ukraine, where towns and villages were bombarded by a barrage of artillery and mortar fire.

Intense fighting forced at least one Ukrainian unit to withdraw to the Kharkiv region, capitulating more land to Russian forces across less defended settlements in the disputed area along Russia’s western border.

A map shows Ukraine’s main cities, including those in Crimea and other Russian-occupied eastern regions of the country.


On Sunday afternoon, the city of Vovchansk, one of the largest in the northeast with a pre-war population of 17,000, became the focal point of the battle. Volodymyr Tymoshko, Kharkiv regional police chief, said Russian forces were on the outskirts of the city and approaching from three directions.

“Infantry battles are already taking place,” he said.

A Russian tank was spotted along a main road leading into the city, Tymoshko said, illustrating Moscow’s confidence in deploying heavy weapons.

An Associated Press team, positioned in a nearby village, saw plumes of smoke rising from the town as Russian forces launched shells. Evacuation crews worked non-stop throughout the day to remove residents, most of whom were elderly, from danger.

At least 4,000 civilians have fled the Kharkiv region since Friday, when Moscow’s forces launched the operation, Governor Oleh Syniehubov said in a statement posted on social media. Heavy fighting raged Sunday along the northeastern front line, where Russian forces attacked 27 settlements in the past 24 hours, it said.

Analysts say the Russian offensive aims to exploit ammunition shortages before promised Western supplies reach the front line.

Ukrainian soldiers said the Kremlin was using the usual Russian tactic of launching disproportionate firepower and infantry assaults to wear down their troops. By intensifying fighting in what was previously a static part of the 600-mile front line, Russian forces threaten to pin down Ukrainian troops in the northeast while waging intense fighting further south, where Moscow is also gaining ground.

This comes after Russia intensified its attacks in March. targeting energy infrastructure and settlementswhich analysts predict as a concerted effort aimed at creating the conditions for an offensive.

Zelensky tells CBS News Ukraine would lose without US aid

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said stopping the Russian offensive in the northeast was a priority and that kyiv’s troops were continuing counter-offensive operations in seven villages around the Kharkiv region.

“Disrupting Russian offensive intentions is now our number one task. The success of this task depends on every soldier, every sergeant, every officer,” Zelenskyy said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that its forces had captured four villages on the border of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, in addition to the five villages reportedly seized on Saturday. These areas were likely poorly fortified due to dynamic fighting and intense, constant bombardment, facilitating the Russian advance.

Ukrainian leaders have not confirmed Moscow’s gains, but commanders have acknowledged difficult battles in the northeast. A Ukrainian unit said it had been forced to retreat in some areas and that Russian forces had captured at least one more village on Saturday evening.

In a video Saturday evening, the Hostri Kartuzy unit, part of the Ukrainian National Guard’s special forces detachment, said it was fighting for control of the village of Hlyboke.

“Today, during heavy fighting, our defenders were forced to retreat from a few more positions and today another settlement came completely under Russian control. At 20:00, the fighting for the village of Hlyboke continues “, the statement said. » the fighters said in the clip.

The Institute for the Study of War said Saturday that it believed claims that Moscow had captured Strilecha, Pylna, Pletenivka and Borsivika were accurate, and that geotagged video also appeared to show that Russian forces had captured Morokhovets and Oliinykove. The Washington-based think tank called recent Russian advances “tactically significant.”

At the start of the war, Russia unsuccessfully attempted to quickly storm Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, but withdrew from its outskirts after about a month. In the fall of 2022, seven months later, the Ukrainian army drove them out of Kharkiv. This bold counterattack helped persuade Western countries that Ukraine could defeat Russia on the battlefield and deserved military support.

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jack colman

With a penchant for words, jack began writing at an early age. As editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper, he honed his skills telling impactful stories. Smith went on to study journalism at Columbia University, where he graduated top of his class. After interning at the New York Times, jack landed a role as a news writer. Over the past decade, he has covered major events like presidential elections and natural disasters. His ability to craft compelling narratives that capture the human experience has earned him acclaim. Though writing is his passion, jack also enjoys hiking, cooking and reading historical fiction in his free time. With an eye for detail and knack for storytelling, he continues making his mark at the forefront of journalism.
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