Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held an official meeting on Saturday, state media reported, amid speculation over his whereabouts and health during the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
State news agency Tass said Shoigu met with the country’s Ministry of Finance to discuss maintaining the supply of advanced weapons for the conflict.
Those items include “robotic complexes, information support and electronic warfare equipment, and of course, logistics, as it has always been the case,” Shoigu said, according to TASS.
“With the challenges we are facing today, we are moving according to plan in implementing the state defense procurement contract,” Shoigu said. “Considering the fact that the government funding for this year is 15% higher than for the previous year, we must of course take a look at what needs particular attention when fulfilling the state defense procurement contract.”
Shoigu reportedly claimed that despite sanctions on Russia, the level of execution of state contracts is at 85%. Outside observers have expressed skepticism that Russia can continue to produce high-tech weaponry amid severe international sanctions, particularly if procurement of some technology by Russia is restricted.
In addition, Shoigu spoke about legal changes that would guarantee government support to Russian troops who have fought in Ukraine, TASS reported.
“According to these amendments, participants of the special military operation in Ukraine acquire the status of combat veterans. Support will also include relatives of this category of military service members,” he said.
According to a separate report from TASS, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the law on Saturday. It had been “unanimously” adopted by the State Duma and approved by the Federation Council on Wednesday.
The new law means that those who have taken part in Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, will have access to the “social protection system used by veterans of Afghanistan, Syria, and other hot spots,” which includes additional payments from the state, tax benefits and medical care, the Russian state media outlet reported.
The bigger picture: Speculation has been mounting over Shoigu’s whereabouts in recent days, as the Defense Minister has kept a low profile in the last few weeks despite having a leading role in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
On Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov declined to comment on media reports and speculation that Shoigu had been experiencing health problems.
“The defense minister has a lot on his plate at the moment,” he said when CNN asked about Shoigu’s reported absence. “The special military operation is going on. Naturally, now is not exactly the time for media activity, this is quite understandable.”
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