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Russia on Wednesday reported its military casualties, saying nearly 500 of its troops had been killed and nearly 1,600 wounded, though the figures could possibly be much higher.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia would continue its “special military operation” in Ukraine until “the stated goals are achieved.”
Speaking at a meeting of Russia’s military chiefs in Moscow on Tuesday, Shoigu insisted that the purpose of the “special military operation” was “to protect the Russian Federation from the military threat posed by Western countries.”
He accused the West of orchestrating Ukrainian resistance against Russia and said Russian troops will take necessary precautions not to harm civilians.
“I stress that attacks are carried out only on military installations and exclusively with high-precision weapons,” he said, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
Originally from the Russian region of Tuva, Shoigu arrived in Moscow at the time of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and became minister of emergency situations. During the 1990s and 2000s, he earned a reputation for visiting the sites of natural disasters and terrorist attacks and speaking one-on-one with civilians, earning him national popularity, according to External relationships.
Shoigu has the distinction of being one of the few people in the Russian government to have held a high-level position since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Dmitry Gorenburg, Ph.D., a Russian military expert, told Fox News.
“If you look at who was serving as minister in 1999 and is still around, there are only two names: one is Shoigu, the other is Putin,” Gorenburg said.
Despite having no military background or combat experience, Putin chose Shoigu as defense minister in 2012.
At that time, the Russian military was undergoing a transformation in its combat capabilities. Despite a swift victory in the 2008 Russo-Georgian war, military planners realized that improvements were badly needed if they were ever to face a more formidable opponent like the US or NATO.
“From a tactical point of view, that was a failure. Command and control was a disaster. They couldn’t hit moving targets,” Russian-born former US intelligence officer Rebekah Koffler told Fox News. “And so, by Putin’s order, the army was going to be transformed and modernized both from the point of view of armament, training and in terms of doctrine.”
Shoigu replaced Anatoly Serdyukov, a man who also had no military background and, according to Gorenburg, ruffled feathers within the military ranks for not respecting their traditional way of doing things.
Shoigu, meanwhile, was seen as a man of great organizational ability who would respect military traditions but embrace innovation. Being ethnically Tuvan, he too had little chance of being accepted as president in Russia.
“That means he’s not threatening Putin personally, or his other top lieutenant… That’s always what autocrats fear,” Gorenburg said. “He’s been pretty effective. And he knew how to play the generals so they felt like he understood them and respected their traditions and so forth while he was still able to move on.”
In the week before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Shoigu oversaw military exercises in western Belarus, Reuters reported. He was photographed with his Belarusian counterpart and other military officers at the Brest military facility in western Belarus.
The US Treasury Department last week included Shoigu and Army General Valery Gerasimov in his latest round of sanctions, saying they were both “directly responsible for a further invasion of Ukraine.”