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A Russian-Israeli businessman has claimed Russia‘s defence minister Sergei Shoigu has suffered a heart attack, which he suspects was caused by foul play.

Shoigu, who has been Putin‘s right hand man and leader of the Russian army for a decade, was a mainstay in the early weeks of the war in Ukraine but recently disappeared from regular Kremlin briefings.

There had been suspicions of tensions between Putin and Shoigu in late March over the invasion’s slow progress, with US intelligence suggesting the pair fell out when Putin learned of the extent of Russian losses in Ukraine.

But Shoigu, 66, is now thought to be in intensive care after suffering ‘a massive heart attack’ which ‘could not have occurred due to natural causes’, according to Leonid Nevzlin, suggesting Putin’s longtime ally may have been the subject of an assassination attempt ordered by his boss.

Shoigu was last seen on yesterday on a video conference with Putin and other ministers about the development of the Arctic but did not speak, and there is speculation the Kremlin is using previously recorded footage of Shoigu since his withdrawal from public appearances weeks ago.

Nevzlin, a former media mogul and top oil executive, is one of several Russian businessmen forced to flee when they were targeted by the Kremlin in 2003, after Putin decided to seize the Yukos oil company. 

He was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment in 2008 as the Kremlin persecuted Yukos’ top executives, and last month announced he was renouncing his Russian passport and declared ‘everything Putin touches dies’.

There had been suspicions of tensions between Putin (pictured) and Shoigu in late March over the invasion's slow progress

There had been suspicions of tensions between Putin (pictured) and Shoigu in late March over the invasion's slow progress

A Russian-Israeli businessman has claimed Russia's defence minister Sergei Shoigu (pictured) has suffered a heart attack, which he suspects was caused by foul play

A Russian-Israeli businessman has claimed Russia's defence minister Sergei Shoigu (pictured) has suffered a heart attack, which he suspects was caused by foul play

Shoigu (R), who has been Putin’s right hand man and leader of the Russian army for a decade, was a mainstay in the early weeks of the war in Ukraine but recently disappeared from regular Kremlin briefings. US intelligence suggested the pair fell out in late March when Putin (L) learned of the extent of Russian losses in Ukraine

Russian-Israeli businessman Leonid Nevzlin has claimed Russia's defence minister Sergei Shoigu has suffered a heart attack, which he suspects was caused by foul play. Nevzlin, a former media mogul and top oil executive, is one of several Russian businessmen forced to flee when they were targeted by the Kremlin in 2003, after Putin decided to seize the Yukos oil company

Russian-Israeli businessman Leonid Nevzlin has claimed Russia's defence minister Sergei Shoigu has suffered a heart attack, which he suspects was caused by foul play. Nevzlin, a former media mogul and top oil executive, is one of several Russian businessmen forced to flee when they were targeted by the Kremlin in 2003, after Putin decided to seize the Yukos oil company

Russian-Israeli businessman Leonid Nevzlin has claimed Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu has suffered a heart attack, which he suspects was caused by foul play. Nevzlin, a former media mogul and top oil executive, is one of several Russian businessmen forced to flee when they were targeted by the Kremlin in 2003, after Putin decided to seize the Yukos oil company

Vladimir Putin and Sergei Shougi at the Victory Day parade 2019. Shoigu was appointed Russia's defence minister in 2012 and has been one of Putin's closest allies for the past decade

Vladimir Putin and Sergei Shougi at the Victory Day parade 2019. Shoigu was appointed Russia's defence minister in 2012 and has been one of Putin's closest allies for the past decade

Vladimir Putin and Sergei Shougi at the Victory Day parade 2019. Shoigu was appointed Russia’s defence minister in 2012 and has been one of Putin’s closest allies for the past decade

Citing sources in Moscow, Nevzlin today declared: ‘Shoigu is out of the game, and may be disabled if he survives.

‘Rumor has it that a heart attack could have occurred not due to natural causes.’

He went on to say that 20 Russian generals have been arrested in Russia and charged with embezzling up to 10 billion dollars allocated to the war effort in Ukraine.

Nevzlin alleged that ‘all the headquarters’ had been arrested and had been syphoning funds destined to prop up Ukraine’s ‘Russian liberators’ since 2014, after the annexation of Crimea and the beginning of conflict in the Donbas.

‘Everything is clear here – the total embezzlement of funds for the preparation of [taking over the leadership of Ukraine]. Since 2014, about $10 billion (USD) allocated by Putin for the preparation of the blitzkrieg has been stolen.’

If the exiled businessman’s claims prove to be true, it would confirm suspicions of a major disconnect between Putin and the highest ranking members of Russia’s army and security services. 

US intelligence in late March claimed that Putin – who has become increasingly isolated in recent months – was being kept in the dark about the invasion by his advisers, Russian foreign military intelligence (GRU) and the army’s top generals.

‘We would concur with the conclusion that Mr. Putin has not been fully informed by his Ministry of Defense, at every turn over the last month,’ Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at the time.

Shoigu was appointed Russia’s defence minister in 2012 and has been one of Putin’s closest allies for the past decade.

The pair are known to have holidayed together regularly and are believed to have shared a close personal friendship outside of their respective roles.

But as the leader of Russia’s army, Shoigu was likely to be the first person to feel the brunt of the Russian president’s anger when he learned of the army’s lack of success in Ukraine.

Ukraine’s armed forces claim that close to 20,000 Russian soldiers have been killed since the invasion began on February 24, with even conservative Western estimates suggesting that over 10,000 troops have died. 

Shoigu (pictured with daughter Ksenia) was appointed Russia's defence minister in 2012 and has been one of Putin's closest allies for the past decade. The pair are known to have holidayed together regularly and are believed to have shared a close personal friendship outside of their respective roles

Shoigu (pictured with daughter Ksenia) was appointed Russia's defence minister in 2012 and has been one of Putin's closest allies for the past decade. The pair are known to have holidayed together regularly and are believed to have shared a close personal friendship outside of their respective roles

Shoigu (pictured with daughter Ksenia) was appointed Russia’s defence minister in 2012 and has been one of Putin’s closest allies for the past decade. The pair are known to have holidayed together regularly and are believed to have shared a close personal friendship outside of their respective roles

Arkady Dvorkovich, who once served as Russia's deputy prime minister and is currently chairman of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), criticised the war with Ukraine. Nevzlin said he is now subject to 'criminal charges' in Russia

Arkady Dvorkovich, who once served as Russia's deputy prime minister and is currently chairman of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), criticised the war with Ukraine. Nevzlin said he is now subject to 'criminal charges' in Russia

Arkady Dvorkovich, who once served as Russia’s deputy prime minister and is currently chairman of the International Chess Federation (FIDE), criticised the war with Ukraine. Nevzlin said he is now subject to ‘criminal charges’ in Russia

Nevzlin also claimed that the Kremlin has launched a criminal case against long-serving ex-deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich, 50.

Dvorkovich is one of the highest-ranking Russian officials to have criticised the war in Ukraine, saying in March that his thoughts were with Ukrainian civilians subjected to violence.

But he stepped down from his position as chairman of Russia’s Skolkovo science and technology founation just days after his statement, as Russian lawmakers labelled him a traitor.

‘[Dvorkovich] is expected to testify against his colleagues and friends,’ Nevzlin said.

‘Sources in the FSB say that if he does not make a deal with the investigation, he will be transferred to either the Matrosskaya Tishina or Lefortovo pre-trial detention centres.’

Leonid Nevzlin, the exiled partner of Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, poses for a portrait at his home on Wednesday, June 15, 2005 in Herzlya, Israel

Leonid Nevzlin, the exiled partner of Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, poses for a portrait at his home on Wednesday, June 15, 2005 in Herzlya, Israel

Leonid Nevzlin, the exiled partner of Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, poses for a portrait at his home on Wednesday, June 15, 2005 in Herzlya, Israel

Before fleeing Russia for Israel to escape persecution by the Kremlin in 2003, Leonid Nevzlin was one of Russia’s leading businessmen who played a major part in Russia’s transition from communism to a market economy amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

In the late 1980s, Nevzlin was a deputy director of Russia’s Centres for Scientific and Technical Creativity, and in 1989 became president of Menatep Bank – one of the first private banks created by fellow businessman Mikhail Khodorkovsky just prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

He went on to head up one of Russia’s top news agencies and became a vice chairman of the board of directors for the Yukos oil company, which was a subsidiary of Khodorkovsky’s Menatep Group.  

Nevzlin was named on Forbes magazine’s list of the top 100 wealthiest men in 2003 and 2004, but had already fled Russia along with Khodorkovsky when the Kremlin decided to expropriate Yukos.

After being sentenced to life imprisonment in 2008 on charges widely thought to be trumped up, Nevzlin became one of the Kremlin’s leading critics, and began to work with European lawmakers to build a case against Putin.

In 2014, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled in favour of Nevzlin and his colleagues, calling the actions of the Russian state ‘a ruthless campaign to destroy Yukos and to expropriate its assets’, and awarded billions of dollars in damages.

Nevzlin’s claims that Shoigu may have been the target of a Putin ordered attack come just weeks after his former business partner and fellow Russian exile Mikhail Khodorkovsky implored high-profile Russians to speak out about the atrocities being committed by the Kremlin’s forces in Ukraine.   

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Khodorkovsky

Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oil tycoon who fled Russia to London in 2013 after falling foul of Putin and being jailed for nearly a decade, said high-profile Russians who left amid the invasion of Ukraine cannot stay silent about the atrocities being committed by Russian forces 

‘Public figures cannot leave quietly and then sit quietly. If you have left, then you should publicly dissociate yourself,’ Khodorkovsky told The Washington Post in an interview in late March.

‘You should step up to the microphone and say that Putin is a war criminal and that what he is doing is a crime, that the war against Ukraine is a crime.

‘Say this, and then we’ll understand that Putin doesn’t have a hold over you,’ Khodorkovsky continued.

The exiled oligarch’s comments referred to a number of Russian elites, who since the invasion began have left their homeland but have thus far not openly condemned Putin’s war.

Source: Daily Mail

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