Vladimir Putin begins fifth term as president, replaces defense minister

 May 13, 2024

In a major development, The Hill reported that Russian President Vladimir Putin moved last week to replace his defense minister. 

The website cited an official post on Telegram by Russia's Federation Council as saying that former Vice Prime Minister Andrei Belousov will take over the role.

Former defense minister's senior aide arrested on corruption charges

Meanwhile, government spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was quoted as telling state media that outgoing Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was tapped to head up the Kremlin’s security council.

The Hill noted that the shake-up comes in the wake of several events, including the arrest of Shoigu's senior deputy Timur Ivanov on corruption charges.

Also of note is the launch of a new Russian offensive this past Friday in Ukraine's Kharkiv region, something which was acknowledged by the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense in a post on social media.

"The Defense Forces of Ukraine are defending our strongholds in the Kharkiv region. Over the past day, the enemy used guided aerial bombs to carry out airstrikes in the Vovchansk direction," it declared.

Expert believes Russia could "hold Kharkiv at risk"

"At approximately 5 a.m., there was an attempt by the enemy to break through our defense line using armored vehicles," the defense ministry explained.

"As of now, these attacks have been repelled; battles of varying intensity continue," it added. "Reserve units have been deployed to strengthen the defense in this area of the front. The Defense Forces of Ukraine continue to hold back the enemy's offensive."

Michael Kofman is a senior fellow with the Russia and Eurasia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and he commented on the situation while speaking with the "War on the Rocks" podcast.

Although Kofman expressed skepticism over Russia's ability to capture Kharkiv, he does think its forces might be able to "create the so-called buffer space that would effectively hold Kharkiv at risk."

Putin begins fifth term as Russia's president

In yet another development, The Hill reported that Putin began his fifth term as president last Tuesday "at a glittering Kremlin inauguration."

"We are a united and great people and together we will overcome all obstacles, realize all our plans, together we will win," he declared.

Putin went on to assert that Russia will "not refuse dialogue with Western states" before adding, "The choice is theirs: do they intend to continue trying to contain Russia, continue the policy of aggression, continuous pressure on our country for years, or look for a path to cooperation and peace."

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