RUSSIA has had a tough time controlling the information war around its invasion of Ukraine – viral posts featuring the Ghost of Kyiv, sunflower seeds and now a picture of defence minister Sergei Shoigu, too, will not be popular with Vladimir Putin.

A broadcast showed the Russian president making remarks condemning sanctions and ordering the country to put its nuclear forces on high alert.

He did so in a meeting with Armed Forces chief Valery Gerasimov and Shoigu.

Putin addressed the two men across a huge table – as he frequently does, having become terrified of catching Covid-19 to the extent that some analysts believe the isolation may have contributed to his current paranoia.

However, it was Shoigu catching eyes online – specifically, his body language and facial expressions as the commander in chief's actions somehow spiral further.

Shoigu’s discomfort was clear to see. As defence minister, he’ll know exactly how many setbacks Russia has faced in its attempted invasion of Ukraine. So, who is he?

The now defence minister is the son of a Ukrainian-born Russian mother.

He was born on May 21, 1955 in Tuva, near Mongolia.

He graduated from a polytechnic institute in Siberia with a degree in civil engineering in 1977, then worked his way up the ranks of the construction industry to executive.

He joined the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1988 and made his political mark in Moscow quickly in the 90s – taking up a new Cabinet position as minister of emergency situations, going out to the scene of natural disasters and terrorist incidents for rescue operations.

The National:

Putin hand-picked Shoigu in 1999 to be one of the leaders of his United Russia party and then, in 2012, appointed him defence minister despite having no military experience.

His standing in the Kremlin was bolstered by Russian military actions in Crimea and Syria.

The two men have long been close, often pictured together on their hunting trips to Siberia.

However, Mayak Intelligence’s Mark Galeotti, an expert on Russia’s security agencies, notes: "He's a strong defender of the national interest but he doesn't have the same visceral anti-Western feelings as the rest.”

The National:

Another insight into Shoigu’s mindset can be seen in his approach to uniforms.

After becoming defence minister, he scrapped the protocol that saw officers of the general staff wearing suits rather than military uniforms.

In 2017, under his stewardship, the uniform was redone to look closer to the Soviet outfits of 1945.