Sergei Shoigu: Questions are hovering over the whereabouts of the Russian Defense Minister

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated the last time Mili spoke with Gerasimov. That was on February 11th.



CNN

Speculation mounted about his whereabouts Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu On Thursday, a Kremlin spokesman declined to comment on media reports that he had health problems.

Shoigu, a close ally of the president Russian President Vladimir PutinHe has kept a low profile recently despite his leading role in the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s independent investigative agency AgnesTevo reported Wednesday that Shoigu is in poor health, citing anonymous sources in the ministry.

Peskov evaded questions on Thursday about the health of Shoigu. “The defense minister has a lot at the moment,” he said when asked by CNN about Shoigu’s reported absence. The special military operation continues. Naturally, now is not the time for media activity, this is quite understandable. ”

A Kremlin spokesman declined to refute the Agentsevvo report when asked by CNN. “I can’t. You shouldn’t listen to the Agenstvo media outlet. Please address [these questions to] Ministry of Defense “.

Shoigu appeared on Channel One broadcast on March 18, the Russian channel said that day, but Russian journalists speculated that the event being broadcast was from March 11.

State-owned TV channel Rossiya 24 aired the footage on Thursday From a virtual meeting that Shoigu attended, but he did not say when the meeting was.

The announcer quoted Peskov as saying that Shoigu was reporting to the National Security Council on the military operation in Ukraine from a distance. The broadcast footage, which interrupted a live interview, did not show Shoigu speaking, but his photo appeared on the screen among other participants of the video call who reported to Putin.

During a televised meeting of Russia’s Security Council on March 11, Shoigu told Putin that its invasion of Ukraine had been successfully carried out, Despite the evidence The opposite.

Western leaders said at the time that the Russian military encountered obstacles and unplanned resistance.

“Everything is going according to plan,” Shoigu said. “We are reporting to you here every day this week.”

He also claimed that the Russian army had received more than 16,000 requests from volunteers in the Middle East who wanted to join the war in Ukraine.

The defense minister also asked Putin for more weapons to arm the separatist regions of Ukraine’s Donbass.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said in a statement Thursday that Russian military leaders, including Shoigu, have been obstructing their American counterparts, and have declined invitations since the invasion began. He added that US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mark A. Mili, “have sought, and are still seeking, to make calls with their Russian counterparts. Minister Shoigu and General (Valery) Gerasimov have so far refused to participate.”

“We continue to believe that communication between US and Russian defense leaders is critical at this time,” Kirby added.

CNN previously reported that the last time Austin spoke with Shoigu was on February 18. The last time Mili spoke with Gerasimov on February 11.

Speculation about Shoigu’s health comes as Anatoly Chubais, a longtime member of the Russian government, is the most prominent figure in the Kremlin to resign since the war began a month ago.

Peskov confirmed that Chubais had resigned as Putin’s climate envoy, but denied any knowledge of Chubais’ alleged opposition to the invasion of Ukraine.

“No, the Kremlin doesn’t know anything about that,” Peskov told CNN when asked to comment on reports that Chubais had resigned from his job over his disapproval of Putin’s decision to go to war in Ukraine.

Peskov also emphasized that his resignation letter should be sent to Putin himself.

“The appointees by presidential decree are writing (resignation letters) addressed to Putin,” he added.

Peskov said Chubais was not a full-time government employee and was working on a voluntary basis.

Chubais first rose to prominence as Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s finance minister in the 1990s before taking powerful positions in the Russian energy industry.

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