Russian Defense Minister Andrei Belousov’s Team Sees New Players

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 21 Issue: 94


Executive Summary:

  • The Russian Defense Ministry has seen numerous new appointments over the past few months, including the May appointment of new Defense Minister Andrei Belousov and the replacement of ten of 12 deputy defense ministers.
  • These replacements are erratic and are rife with nepotism and appointees without any real defense experience, likely as a way for Belousov to improve his communications within the Russian inter-agency environment through his new appointees’ connections.
  • The new appointments have increased the number of deputy ministers connected to the Federal Security Service in the Defense Ministry, allowing the organization to exert more control over the ministry’s actions.

More than a month has passed since Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Andrei Belousov as the new Russian minister of defense. Since then, Belousov has been slowly assembling his team of deputies. Four former deputies—Ruslan Tsalikov (former first deputy defense minister), Nikolai Pankov, Pavel Popov, and Tatyana Shevtsova—were dismissed on June 17 (, June 17). In turn, four new deputies—Leonid Gornin (first deputy minister), Pavel Fradkov, Oleg Saveliev, and Anna Tsivileva—have been appointed (, June 17 [1], [2], [3]). Additionally, in May, Russian politician Oleg Saveliev replaced Yuri Sadovenko as a deputy minister and the Ministry’s chief of staff. Since Belousov’s ascension, ten of the 12 deputy ministers in the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) have been replaced. That means at least two more deputies will be dismissed, and two new deputies will be appointed soon. It is unclear whether the other deputy ministers who were appointed before Belousov became defense minister will be replaced in the coming weeks or months, including Army General Valery Gerasimov, first deputy and chief of the Russian General Staff (, May 20;, June 17).

A brief look at the history and background of the new deputy ministers gives a better understanding of what is happening in the Russian military sector and the wider authoritarian system in general. To begin with, there has been an objective generational transition in leadership from those born in the 1950s to those born in the 1970s–early 1980s among those in the MoD. Although Saveliev and Andrei Bulyga, deputy minister of defense responsible for logistics and supplies who was appointed as early as March, were born in the 1960s, their careers in post-Soviet Russia were developed along the lines of their younger colleagues. The younger generation seems to be less proactive compared to the political generation of the 1950s–early 1960s. The older generation began its rise to power in the Soviet era, survived the political turbulence of the late 1980s–late 1990s, and was clever enough to stay in the game over the past 25 years. The newer generation did not have to weather the political storm of the past 45 years and thus likely do not have the same tenacity and resilience as their predecessors.

In general, the new deputies have focused on auditing and revising the military budget and optimizing arms procurement programs for the already established ministry. None of the new deputies have previous ties with the Russian military, but two of them, Fradkov and Saveliev, have ties with the Russian security services, which mean this wing will likely have further control and influence over the MoD and Russian Armed Forces (see EDM, June 5, 2023, May 16, 23).

The growing nepotism in Russia’s leadership is a significant trend that cannot be ignored. Pavel Fradkov is the son of Mikhail Fradkov, former prime minister and former chief of the Foreign Intelligence Service. Additionally, Anna Tsivileva is Putin’s second cousin. These connections raise questions about the appointment process’ transparency and fairness (Meduza, June 17;, June 17;, June 18).

The most probable reason for the appointments of Fradkov and Tsivileva is Belousov’s intention to improve his communications within the labyrinthine Russian inter-agency environment. This is because the ministry staff and the armed forces would likely resist the new minister’s orders and any significant arms procurement revision out of loyalty to the previous minister. Additionally, Fradkov’s elder brother, Petr Fradkov, heads Promsvyazbank, the main bank of the Russian military-industrial complex. As a result, the bank is likely loyal to the MoD, which would counter-balance its ties with the top managers of state-owned military-industrial corporations and the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Fradkov also has a Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) background. Fradkov’s appointment means that FSB-connected Nikolai Pankov’s retirement will not lead to a decrease in the presence of FSB-linked officials in the ministry’s leadership. Tsivileva was previously entirely unconnected to the MoD (like Belousov) and the Russian government. Her husband, Sergei Tsivilev, who was recently appointed minister of energy, also had no previous connections to his position. As a result, Tsivileva will likely be loyal to Belousov due to their commonality of being in a new space and acting as an informal communication channel with Putin. New First Deputy Minister of Defense Leonid Gornin was a deputy minister of finance responsible for military spending and arms procurement programs (, accessed June 20). He recently took over Tatyana Shevtsova’s responsibilities, who had managed the MoD’s financial flows for more than 14 years. His appointment also means that financial issues are now a major focus of the MoD.

The appointment of Oleg Saveliev as a deputy minister of defense and chief of staff is interesting, as he has been linked to the FSB. Saveliev was a manager in different political parties and campaigns in the 1990s and engaged in unclear public relations activity during the 2000s. He was a deputy minister of economic growth during Dmitry Medvedev’s presidency, responsible for the federal target programs of different agencies. He was the only “minister for affairs of Crimea” from 2014 to 2015. He then became an auditor of the Russian Accounts Chamber and has now come to the MoD. Such moves in a career often mean service in the FSB as a “delegated officer” who represents the security service in different agencies, companies, and other entities. If this presumption is correct, four deputy ministers of defense now have ties to the FSB: Viktor Goremykin, Alexei Krivoruchko, Pavel Fradkov, and Oleg Saveliev (, accessed June 20).

The high number of ties between the new MoD staff and the FSB may indicate that Russia is looking to expand covert operations in the MoD. Belousov still has two vacant deputy positions, likely being filled through a bureaucratic struggle. The eventual appointees as will be telling of the Kremlin’s planned trajectory for defense and whether Putin plans to continue to surround himself with those he trusts and can easily control or those who are actually qualified for their positions.