Vladimir Putin and former Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu (Maxim Shemetov/Reuters/File)

Sunday’s Coverage: Zelenskiy — “Very Difficult” Situation as Russia Continues Assault on Kharkiv

Map: Institute for the Study of War


Ukraine security services say they halted a Russian plot for bombings in Kyiv on May 9, when Moscow marks “Victory Day” in World War II.

The bombs were to be detonated in builders’ markets and near a cafe. Two Russian military agents have been detained, and 19 explosive devices seized

Ukraine’s security service SBU said, “The explosives were supposed to detonate during the supermarkets’ peak hours to cause maximum damage to the civilian population.”

The explosives for the builders’ markets were disguised as packages of tea. A bomb was placed in a car for an explosion near the cafe.


The largest refinery in southern Russia has been partially shut down after a Ukrainian drone attack on Sunday.

The refinery of the Russian oil giant Lukoil, with daily output of 300,000 barrels, is in the Volgograd region. A fire was put out quickly and there were no casualties, said Volgograd Governor Andrei Bocharov.

But the CDU-1 unit, the largest at the refinery, was damaged. The plant went on emergency shutdown and was still offline on Monday.

UPDATE 1315 GMT: A Russian court in occupied Crimea has condemned five Ukrainians to up to 16 years in prison.

The men were charged with treason and espionage, accused of sharing information on the location and movements of Russian army units that assisted Ukrainian artillery and rocket strikes.


Ukraine’s military has replaced the commander for the Kharkiv region amid Russia’s cross-border assault.

Spokesperson Nazar Voloshyn said Gen. Mykhailo Drapatyi was appointed as the new commander on Saturday. No reason was given for the change.


Ukraine is importing a record amount of electricity from five European countries on Monday, following Russia’s drone and strikes on energy infrastructure.

Imports are expected to reach 19,484 megawatt hours. The previous high was 18,649 Mwh at the end of March after Russia’s most extensive attacks in 2024.

Russia’s latest mass strikes were last Wednesday, across seven Ukrainian regions, damaging thermal power plants and electricity substations.


In the Kharkiv region in northeast Ukraine, 5,762 civilians have been evacuated since Russia’s cross-border armored assault on Friday, says Governor Oleh Syniehubov.

More than 30 settlements were attacked by artillery and mortar fire on Sunday, and the town of Vovchansk was hit by “massive shelling”.

Ukraine’s General Staff implicitly acknowledged the loss of border villages, saying “at the moment, the enemy has tactical success” in the fight for Vovchansk, 10 km (6.2 miles) from the Russian border.

In his nightly video address, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, “The situation is…very difficult near Vovchansk. The city is under constant Russian fire.”


Russian officials say at least 15 people were killed and 27 injured by the downing of a Ukrainian missile.

The officials said at least 12 missiles were fired in Ukraine’s latest attack on military, supply, and logistics sites.

Part of an apartment block in the border region of Belgorod collapsed. Footage showed rescuers searching for survivors among the remnants of the building’s stairwell, then fleeing as part of the roof collapsed.

ORIGINAL ENTRY: Vladimir Putin has replaced Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu amid Russia’s wartime economy and internal power struggles during the 26 1/2-month invasion of Ukraine.

The Kremlin suddenly announced that Andrei Belousov, a former Deputy Prime Minister and an economist, is the new Minister.

Shoygu is moved to Secretary of the National Security Council, a nominal promotion but a loss of executive authority.

The big loser in the reshuffle appears to be Nikolai Patrushev, dismissed as the NSC’s Secretary. The Kremlin only said that details of his future would be revealed later.

Shoygu was Putin’s longest-serving minister, having been in post since 2012. He survived the 2023 rebellion of the Wagner Group mercenaries, whose leader Yevgeny Prigozhin demanded his removal.

However, other Russian agencies began to erode his position this year with the indictment of his long-time confidant and Deputy Defense Timur Ivanov, charged with corruption.

The New Defense Minister and the Battle for Power

The Kremlin’s formal explanation is that Belousov, 65, was chosen as Defense Minister to manage Russia’s expenditure. Defense spending of 10.8 trillion roubles ($117.2 billion) is now an estimated 7.5% of Russian GDP.

“It’s very important to put the security economy in line with the economy of the country so that it meets the dynamics of the current moment,” said spokesman Dmitry Peskov. He claimed Putin had installed a civilian to ensure the Ministry because “the one who is more open to innovations is the one who will be victorious on the battlefield”.

Leading analyst Mark Galeotti said of Belousov, a leading economic official since 2000 and Deputy Prime Minister since 2020:

Having an economist, someone who has been speaking about the need to basically subordinate much of the economy to the needs of the defense sector, makes a certain amount of sense. It is now essentially a financial administrator’s job and Belousov can do that.

Andrei Koleshnikov of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace evaluated:

Koleshnikov sees the step as a big risk for Putin: “The Kremlin believes [Belousov] will technologize the economy and turn it into a military economy. And the military will pull GDP growth….It’s essentially Soviet. Which is what the USSR blew up on.”

A “person who has know Putin and Belousov for decades” says, “Belousov…won’t pretend to lead the army like a general with all these medals. He’s a workaholic. He’s a technocrat. He’s very honest, and Putin knows him very well,.”

An EA source inside Russia has a more sceptical view, seeing Belousov’s promotion as a sign of greed and the internal power struggle in Moscow:

This guy is extremely corrupt. His team is good, but he’s placed all his family members in key industries. So he won’t be called to run the ground operations but simply the procurement for the military, making sure that the industries are producing for the war.

That also means controlling labor which is their biggest problem in the medium to long term. That’s the principle reason they are nationalizing — so they have easy access to men to send to the front.