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Who Will Retain Their Place In Putin’s Cabinet?

FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the government in Moscow, Russia May 6, 2024. Sputnik/Dmitry Astakhov/Pool via REUTERS

The inauguration of President Putin for the fifth time is now a mere formality. The 71-year-old Russian leader, who won March’s elections with 88% of the vote, which Western critics described as “rigged” will walk down the red carpet of the Grand Kremlin Palace on Tuesday. But after the grand ceremony comes the question, who will Putin retain in his cabinet?


Economy first

Tradition demands that the Russian prime minister Mikhail Mishustin has to resign with a new cabinet been sworn in at the president’s discretion. Russia observers believe that the first priority of maintaining Russia’s economy despite sanctions.

In this regard, Prime Minister Mishustin who was a former tax officer and Russia’s Central Bank Chief Elvira Nabiullina are likely to keep their posts given the good job they have done so far in managing Russia’s wartime economy.

Old guard

According to a Politico report, the most interesting question is what does Putin do with the older guard some of whom  are die-hard loyalists to him. Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, the latter of whom has held his post for two decades, fall in this category.

Shoigu was personally targeted by the late Russian strongman and founder of the Wagner group Yevgeny Prigozhin who called him a “scumbag.” Putin stood by Shoigu even during Prigozhin’s march towards Moscow suggesting that he may not be willing to give up a man who has remained loyal to him for decades.


But Shoigu cannot rest too easy. Analysts view the recent of Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov for bribe-taking as a warning for Shoigu. Though Putin did support Shoigu over Prigozhin, criticisms on how he has managed the Ukraine war are beginning to tell on a man who was once seen as the next-in-line after Putin.

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Rumours circled after he went missing on March 11, 2022, just after the Ukraine invasion was launched, with the official cause being given by the Kremlin as a “heart attack.” Shoigu appeared later in a clip in Russia’s state-owned news agency RIA but his standing is not the same as it was before.

Lavrov’s experience

Coming to Lavrov the situation is uncertain. An FT report quoting insiders said that the Russian foreign minister is not part of Putin’s inner circle whom he consulted before declaring war on Ukraine. Despite this, Lavrov has been given key tasks to handle. He has personally presided over the building of ties between North Korea and Russia before Putin met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Lavrov has also been busy in maintaining ties with China through the war, his last visit which came in April when he met with his counterpart Wang Yi. The discussion was believed to be on the strengthening of Eurasian security. This has been significant as the West continues to amp up pressure on China to stop its support to Ukraine.

Lavrov is also believed to be more indispensable to Putin right now given the ICC warrant issued against the Russian leader.

Shake up needed?

While the speculations continue, many analysts believe that a shake up within Russia’s cabinet is needed because of Russia’s cabinet members are nearing or in their 70s. But if history is any indicator Putin will keep key posts such as finance, defence and foreign affairs while changing others. According to a VOA report this was seen in his earlier cabinet reshuffle in 2020 when he fired then prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, who had the job for eight years. He removed the title of Additional Prime Minister from Finance Minister Anton Siluanov showing that no one could rest easy.

(With inputs from Reuters & other agencies)