U.K. military intelligence reported on Monday that Russian President Vladimir Putin has “sidelined” his defense minister as the invasion of Ukraine reaches a prolonged impasse.
According to a Twitter thread by the British Defense Ministry, Russian officers “routinely ridiculed” Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for “ineffectual and out-of-touch leadership.”
“Shoigu has likely long struggled to overcome his reputation as lacking substantive military experience, as he spent most of his career in the construction sector and the Ministry of Emergency Situations,” the ministry said.
The update also noted that Putin is now being briefed directly by operational commanders.
Shoigu is a longtime ally of the Russian leader and has maintained substantial national popularity since the 1990s, leading the newly rebuilt country’s emergency ministry from 1991 until 2012. That year he was tapped by Putin to lead the defense ministry, Fox News reported.
The news of Shoigu being pushed away from decision-making comes as Russian and Ukrainian forces continue to fight near the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in Enerhodar, causing international fears of a potential disaster.
Ukrainian forces have jumped on the opportunity to launch a counter-offensive against the Russian-occupied southern Kherson region. The plant, which Russian forces are backed up against, sits approximately 125 miles southwest of Kherson.
“Today there was a powerful artillery attack on enemy positions in … the occupied Kherson region,” Ukrainian official Sergey Khlan said Monday on local television.
“This is what we have been waiting for since the spring — it is the beginning of the de-occupation of [the] Kherson region,” he added.