Sergey Shoigu was seen for the first time since March 11 in a short TV appearance on Thursday. His absence had led to rumours that he had suffered a heart attack in the wake of Russia’s disastrous invasion of its western neighbour. Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs, wrote on his Facebook page: “Shoigu’s heart attack came after Putin was harshly accused of a complete failure of the Ukrainian invasion.”
He added that the Russian Defence Minister was now “recovering” in hospital.
However, the Kremlin tried to dispel the damaging rumours by wheeling out Mr Shoigu for a short TV appearance on Thursday.
The pale-faced 66-year-old looked far from the picture of health in his heavily scripted TV performance.
In a rasping and rough voice, he read from notes as he called upon the Finance Ministry to unleash more funds for Moscow’s war in Ukraine.
Russia’s military head man said it was vital to keep up the pace of weapons deliveries to troops on the front lines.
Reports indicate that Russian forces are running low on both weapons and equipment, as they come against fierce resistance from Ukraine’s army.
In particular, stocks of precision guided missiles are believed to be running very low, according to a Pentagon official.
Colin Kahl, US Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, said Moscow was likely to rely more and more on so-called dumb bombs and artillery.
Mykhailo Golub posted a photo of an order believed to have been issued by the Russian Ministry of Defence.
The executive command seems to suggest that all is not well with Putin’s top General.
According to the leaked document, officers are instructed to fake their interactions with Mr Shoigu.
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Military analysts believe Moscow has lost between 10-20 Battalion Tactical Groups out of around 120.
However, in a sign that Putin is doubling down on his war with Kyiv, the Russian President is set to deploy replacements to his front lines.
At the same time, Ukrainian monitors report that antidotes against nerve agents are being distributed among Russian troops.
This increases fears that the Russian President is ready to use his chemical weapons in an attempt to break the will of Ukraine’s army and people.
Joe Biden, the US President, has vowed to retaliate “in kind” if Putin deploys his biochemical weapons.