Denis Manturov has been a key member of Vladimir Putin's ministerial team for several years. [Source: BBC News]
Russian President Vladimir Putin lost his cool during his government’s first meeting of 2023, publicly telling off the trade and industry minister.
For several minutes he accused Denis Manturov of bureaucratic delays in ordering civilian and military planes.
“Too long, it is taking too long,” said the Russian leader, who has never been one to hold back in criticising top officials in public.
“What are you fooling around for? When will the contracts be signed?”
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.
“These 700 aircraft, including helicopters… you need to sort this out with the defence ministry… several enterprises still haven’t received any orders,” he complained.
Mr Manturov has been a loyal member of the Putin ministerial team since 2012 and has regularly travelled 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 programme 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 clearly not enough for an increasingly agitated president.
“No, do it within a month. Don’t you understand the situation we’re in? It needs to be done in a month, no later.”
The televised dressing-down echoed an even more dramatic event three days before the war broke out when Mr Putin ordered his top security figures to say whether Russia should recognise two occupied areas of eastern Ukraine as an independent.
When one of his closest allies, foreign intelligence chief Sergei Naryshkin, hesitantly suggested Russia’s Western partners should be given one last chance, President Putin began to interrogate him.
Mr Naryshkin stumbled over his words several times before declaring he would support the two occupied regions being brought into the Russian Federation.
Although President Putin said incorporating Ukraine’s regions into Russia was not on the table, several months later that was exactly what he announced.