Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu reportedly has suffered a massive heart attack which is thought to be not from natural causes, a Russian-Israeli businessman has claimed. This comes as Shoigu has lately been missing from regular Kremlin briefings on the Ukraine-Russia war, raising questions on his well-being.
Shoigu, who was one of the most trusted of Vladimir Putin's men, was a mainstay in the early weeks of the war but went missing a few weeks back. At that time also speculation was rife that he had suffered a heart attack. However, he was seen after a few days but many raised doubts that it was an old video of Shoigu.
Shoigu is feared to have drawn Putin's wrath and many believe that he may be among those men who have either been jailed or have been poisoned by Putin after Russia's suffered massive losses in the hands of Ukrainian forces.
According to reports, Shoigu suffered a "massive heart attack" a few weeks back and that is not from natural causes, according to an Israeli-Russian businessman. Shoigu, 66, is "out of the game" and could be left "disabled" if he lives, said Leonid Nevzlin, 62, a Putin enemy.
He is currently "in intensive care, hooked to the equipment."
Nevzlin went on to say that 20 Russian generals have been arrested in Russia and are accused of embezzling up to $10 billion from the Ukrainian war effort. The extraordinary accusations were attributed by Nevzlin to his unnamed Moscow contacts. The claims yet to be independently verified.
One theory could be that potential coup-plotters are being locked up or otherwise incapacitated. Nevzlin, a former media magnate and senior oil executive, was one of several Russian businesspeople compelled to flee when they were targeted by the Kremlin after Putin chose to seize the Yukos oil company in 2003.
In 2008, he was sentenced to life in jail in absentia as the Kremlin pursued Yukos' senior executives, and he announced last month that he was relinquishing his Russian nationality and declaring that "everything Putin touches dies."
Distrust Among Kremlin Top Ranks
Reports of Shoigu's heart problems had done the rounds earlier too alongside accusations that he was out of sight because Putin ordered him to operate from a distant nuclear bunker in the Urals. There have also been reports that Putin has decided to keep him out of the invasion after Kremlin forces suffered serious losses.
However, now claims are that he has suffered a massive heart attack that could disable him forever. "Rumor has it that a heart attack could have occurred not due to natural causes," Nevzlin wrote on Facebook. "He suddenly had a massive heart attack. He is in intensive care, connected to devices."
If the charges of the exiled billionaire are proven to be genuine, it will corroborate concerns that Putin and Russia's top military and security officials are at odds.
Shoigu was last seen April 13 in a video with Putin and other officials discussing the future of the Arctic. He was dressed in a suit and scribbled down Putin's orders. He, although, was not seen speaking in the video.
However, there have been questions in the past regarding whether staged film is utilized in these sessions when Putin is shown meeting with ministers remotely. Nevzlin did not say when he directly believes Shoigu had a heart attack.
In late March, US intelligence stated that Putin's aides, Russian foreign military intelligence (GRU), and the army's top generals were keeping him in the dark about the invasion. Putin has become increasingly isolated in recent months. And he grew suspicious.
Shoigu was appointed Russia's defense minister in 2012 and has been one of Putin's closest allies for the past decade. However, the failure of Russian forces in Ukraine changed Putin completely, with reports claiming that he has jailed several of his top aided
Since the assault began on February 24, Ukraine's military forces allege that around 20,000 Russian soldiers have died, with even conservative Western assessments claiming that over 10,000 servicemen have died.