Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu held an official meeting on Saturday, state media reported, amid speculation about his whereabouts and health during the ongoing invasion of Ukraine.
State news agency Tass said Shoigu met with the country’s finance ministry to discuss preserving the supply of advanced weapons for the conflict.
Those items include “robot complexes, information support and electronic warfare equipment, and of course logistics, as has always been the case,” Shoigu said, according to TASS.
“With the challenges we face today, we are going according to plan in executing the government defense contract,” said Shoigu. “Given the fact that the government contribution for this year is 15% higher than for the previous year, we must of course look at what needs special attention when fulfilling the procurement contract of the state defense.”
Shoigu reportedly claimed that despite sanctions against Russia, the level of execution of state contracts is at 85%. Outside observers are skeptical that Russia can continue to produce high-tech weapons despite severe international sanctions, especially if Russia restricts its acquisition of certain technology.
In addition, Shoigu spoke of legal changes that would guarantee state aid to Russian troops who fought in Ukraine, TASS reported.
“Under these changes, participants in the special military operation in Ukraine will be given the status of combat veterans. Support will also extend to relatives of this category of military,” he said.
According to a separate report from TASS, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the law on Saturday. It was passed “unanimously” by the State Duma and approved by the Federation Council on Wednesday.
The new law means those who participated in Russia’s military operations in Ukraine will have access to the “social protection system used by veterans of Afghanistan, Syria and other hotspots,” which includes additional payments from the state, tax breaks and medical care, Russian state media reported.
The bigger picture: In recent days, there has been increasing speculation about Shoigu’s whereabouts, as the defense minister has kept quiet in recent weeks despite playing 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 suffered health problems.
“The defense secretary has a lot on his plate right now,” he said when DailyExpertNews asked him about Shoigu’s reported absence. “The special military operation is underway. Of course, now is not really the time for media activity, which is very understandable.”