Vladimir Putin’s decision to sack two key government figures may appear baffling, but it is driven by perceptions of the defence ministry and the economics of war, says Moscow correspondent Ivor Bennett.

The Russian president has removed defence minister Sergei Shoigu and security council chief Nikolai Patrushev from their posts.

“Both were very close Putin aides, they had been in post a very long time and this comes at a time when Russia has the upper hand on the battlefield – that’s why it is so shocking, so baffling, so why did Putin do it?” says Bennett.

He explains the Kremlin painted the move as getting tighter control on defence spending – which has ballooned to 6.6% of GDP.

“There is a perception that the ministry of defence under Shoigu has not been as frugal as it could be, to say the least.

“There are also allegations of corruption.”

One of Mr Shoigu’s deputies was recently arrested on corruption charges, so his sacking is in part about “fixing those perceptions”.

His replacement, Andrei Belousov, is an economist, suggesting there is also a practical purpose to the reshuffle.

“That tells you that Russia, right now, wants to ensure that the military-industrial complex is operating as efficiently as possible,” Bennett says.

“The entire economy here is geared around the war, geared around the military.

“Putin clearly wants to make sure Russia can continue to fight his war for as long as he wants.”

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