Sergei Shoigu Reappears After Missing Russian Minister Prompts Speculation

Russia has released footage of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu following reports he had been missing for nearly two weeks amid the country's invasion of Ukraine.

The Russian state-owned news agency RIA Novosti published video online showing President Vladimir Putin speaking to his advisers, with Shoigu appearing on a screen in the top corner.

RIA Novosti said that the meeting on Thursday was to discuss the war in Ukraine and the sanctions imposed on Russia.

The video was released after Agentstvo [The Agency], a Russian independent investigative news outlet, detailed Wednesday how Shoigu, 66, one of Vladimir Putin's closest allies, had not made an appearance in public since March 11.

Agentstvo also alleged that Russian state-run news used week-old footage when reporting how he presented military awards on March 18.

Before the video was released, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that the reason Shoigu has not been making media appearances as he normally would do is because he is too preoccupied with the ongoing conflict.

"Minister of Defense now has a lot of worries, as you understand. A special military operation is underway," Peskov told reporters when asked about Shoigu, RIA Novosti reported. "Of course, now is not quite the time for media activity. This is quite understandable."

Peskov made the claim despite Shoigu making near-daily media appearances in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine up until March 11.

Agentstvo said a possible reason for Shoigu's absence was that he had fallen ill with heart problems. Some reports have also suggested that he may be under house arrest, along with others at the forefront of the fledgling invasion of Ukraine.

The Wall Street Journal reported on March 19 that a U.S. official had described as credible reports that the commander of Russia's FSB intelligence agency's unit responsible for Ukraine had been placed under house arrest. The official also said bickering had broken out between the FSB and the Russian Ministry of Defense as the invasion has stalled amid stiff Ukrainian resistance.

When asked about the rumors that Shoigu was suffering from heart problems, Peskov said: "You don't need to listen to the Agentstvo publication."

On Wednesday, the Pentagon said U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, have been desperately trying to arrange a phone call with Shoigu and Russia's chief of the general staff Valery Gerasimov—who has also not been seen since March 11—but the pair have "have so far declined to engage."

In its report, which was widely shared in Russia on messaging service Telegram, Agentstvo reported that the Kremlin's website said Shoigu met with Putin along with members of his Security Council to discuss the conflict in Ukraine on March 18.

However, while Shoigu was reported to be present at the meeting, no pictures or video of him were posted online.

Shoigu's profile on the Ministry of Defense website had also not been updated since March 11.

Dmitry Treschanin, a Russian journalist at independent outlet Mediazona, noted on Twitter that the last article about Shoigu to appear on RIA was from March 11.

Russia's Defense Ministry has been contacted for comment.

Sergei Shoigu missing
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attends a press conference following a two-plus-two dialogue between the Defence and foreign ministers of Italy and Russia at Villa Madama, on February 18, 2020 in Rome, Italy. Antonio Masiello/Getty Images