Emmanuel Macron discusses Russian 'war crimes' in Ukraine
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Sergei Shoigu is understood to have suffered an attack that was caused by foul play. Reports suggest he is now in intensive care, though this has not been confirmed.
Russian-Israeli businessmen Leonid Nevzlin made the claim today, on Thursday.
He said Shoigu, 66, suffered a “massive heart attack”, adding this “could not have occurred due to natural causes”.
The implications of this, if true, are serious, perhaps pointing the finger to an attempted assassination at the heart of the Kremlin.
Nevzlin cited sources from Moscow as the providers of his information.
Economist and author Anders Åslund suggested the reports were unlikely to be false.
He described Mr Nevzlin as “extremely well-informed and judicious”.
Western officials are speculating the Kremlin has used past footage of video conferences to create the impression Shoigu was present at current meetings.
He has not appeared at a number of recent regular briefings on the war.
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Some reports suggest Putin’s view of his minister declined after war failures became known in Moscow.
Max Seddon of the Financial Times noted that Shoigu had mysteriously faded from the public eye despite his previous dominance, raising questions over his whereabouts.
He said in a post on Twitter at the end of last month: “Over a decade as Defence Minister, Sergei Shoigu and the revamped Russian military were ever-present on state TV.
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“But this month, he mysteriously vanished for weeks – just as Russia’s forces in Ukraine failed to live up to their hype.”
Even if Shoigu survives, Nevzlin said: “[He] is out of the game, and may be disabled if he survives.”
This comes amid an increasing crackdown in Russia on those who oppose the state’s war efforts.
The intentional spreading of “fake” news about the Russian military is now punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
One activist from Ivanovo in Russia is understood to have been charged with the offence of discrediting the military by handing out free copies of George Orwell’s “1984”.
Responding to reports, journalist Kevin Rothrock joked in a post on Twitter: “Welcome to Russia in 2022, everyone.”
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