Russian President Vladimir Putin lost his cool when he openly criticized the trade and industry minister at the government’s first meeting in 2023. For several minutes, he accused Denis Manturov of bureaucratically delaying orders for civilian and military aircraft.
The government’s first meeting came on the same day that President Putin replaced his top commander in Ukraine after just three months in charge. Gen Sergei Surovikin was appointed in October after a series of setbacks in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but he has failed to reverse the course of the war. In an otherwise upbeat video call shown on Russian TV in which President Putin praised his ministers’ handling of the economy, President Putin repeatedly interrupted Mr. Manturov, as the minister detailed plans for planes, helicopters, and boats.
Mr. Manturov has been a loyal member of the Putin ministerial team since 2012 and has regularly traveled with the president on foreign and domestic visits. He was handed the task of overseeing Russia’s weapons industry last summer when shortcomings had already been exposed on the battlefield. As he explained that his ministry had launched a program to produce helicopter engines in St Petersburg that were previously made in Ukraine, the president butted in, complaining it was all taking too long. As the minister’s public humiliation neared its end, he promised his department would do its best with its economic partners. But this was not enough for an increasingly agitated president.
Director of Foreign Intelligence Sergei Naryshkin hesitantly suggested giving Russia’s Western partners a last chance, and Putin began questioning him. Naryshkin stumbled over his words several times before declaring his support for the incorporation of the two occupied territories into the Russian Federation. Putin said he was not considering annexing regions of Ukraine to Russia, but months later he announced just that.