Putin counters Shoigu’s influence by elevating ex-bodyguard-turned-governor Dyumin, ISW reports

Alexei Dyumin and Vladimir Putin at a meeting on May 2, 2024
Alexei Dyumin and Vladimir Putin at a meeting on May 2, 2024

Vladimir Putin appears to have tellingly renewed his favor for his former bodyguard, Tula Oblast Governor Alexei Dyumin, according to the latest report of the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War released on May 2.

In contrast to the declining influence of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu following the arrest of his deputy Timur Ivanov, Russian troops have made new advances west of Avdiivka. Geolocated footage from May 2 shows that the invasion forces have recently advanced north of Ocheretyne (northwest of Avdiivka) and south of Pervomayske (a village southwest of Avdiivka). Russian “milbloggers” claimed that Russian troops also advanced 3.85 km in width and 2 km in depth into the central part of Arkhanhelske (northeast of Ocheretyne and north of Avdiivka) from Ocheretyne and Keramik. In addition, the ‘milbloggers’ claimed that Russian troops were advancing southwest of Solovyove (northwest of Avdiivka) and near Netaylove (west of Avdiivka). However, ISW has not observed visual evidence of any of these claims.

Nazar Voloshyn, a spokesman for the Khortytsia operational and strategic troop grouping, said on May 2 that Russian units control part of Ocheretyne, while the Ukrainian Armed Forces keep the settlement under fire control. Voloshyn reminded that Ukrainian forces have deployed additional reserves and resources in the area to stabilize the front line. The press service of the Ukrainian brigade that recently operated on the Ocheretyne-Keramik line said that Russian troops have recently been conducting 20 to 30 attacks with GLIDE bombs in the area every day.

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ISW experts analyzed new statements made by Vadym Skibitskyi, Deputy Chief of the Main Intelligence Directorate (HUR) of the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, in an interview with The Economist. Among other things, he said that Russia has a “three-layer” plan to destabilize Ukraine (including superiority on the battlefield, disinformation campaign in Ukraine, and isolation on the international stage); that he sees no way for Ukraine to win the war on the battlefield alone; and that the main strategic direction of the Russian invasion remains the northeastern part of Ukraine (Kharkiv, Sumy, Chernihiv, and Kyiv Oblast), but that the aggressor does not have enough forces to launch large-scale attacks on these cities. ISW agrees with this assessment, recalling that Russian troops are unlikely to capture Kharkiv, but Russian offensive operations in the area will distract and draw Ukrainian forces from other parts of the front.

Skibitskyi suggested that the capture of Chasiv Yar is imminent, with ISW noting the area as favorable for significant Russian gains. However, in the Avdiivka sector, recent advances by Russian forces are deemed unlikely to pose a near-term threat to any operationally significant target.

ISW experts highlighted Vladimir Putin’s recent meeting with Tula Oblast Governor Alexei Dyumin, speculating on Putin’s intent to diminish Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu’s influence by diverting attention to his rivals. Dyumin briefed Putin on Tula Oblast’s contributions to the invasion of Ukraine and emphasized regional involvement in arms production and UAV training. This meeting follows Dyumin’s previous attempts to mediate during the 2023 Wagner and Yevgeny Prigozhin PMC mutiny, signaling a potential shift in Putin’s favor toward Dyumin over Shoigu.

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Russian insider sources suggest Dyumin may be appointed to a new position related to the defense industry, possibly signaling dissatisfaction with Shoigu’s leadership, particularly after the arrest of Deputy Defense Minister Timur Ivanov. ISW suggests that Putin’s involvement in Ivanov’s arrest indicates personal responsibility for the decision, consistent with his pattern of shifting allegiances to balance influence factions. This meeting signifies a significant victory for Shoigu’s entourage and a setback for Dyumin, contrasting with Putin’s previous gestures of favor toward Dyumin.

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