Putin's pick for defense minister stresses need to improve soldiers' wellbeing

Andrey Belousov, Russian President Vladimir Putin's pick for defense minister, has stressed the need to improve the wellbeing of Russian soldiers who take part in the military operation in Ukraine.

Belousov addressed a parliamentary committee as part of his confirmation process on Monday, the day after Putin proposed the first deputy prime minister as a replacement for Sergey Shoigu as defense minister.

Belousov said he thinks "it is a mess when participants in the special military operation who come back on vacation are driven from civilian medical institutions to hospitals which are often simply overcrowded." He added that the issue needs to be resolved.

Belousov is an economics expert with no military background. His remarks were apparently aimed at easing the anxieties of soldiers and keeping their morale from flagging.

Some experts say Putin's tapping of Belousov is part of his efforts to coordinate military and economic strategies and streamline combat operations in a bid to prepare the nation for prolonged conflict in Ukraine.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on social media that Putin's move signals Russia's final transition to military communism to provide resources for the "endless war."

Russian troops last week crossed the border into the eastern Ukrainian region of Kharkiv. They said they took control of multiple settlements.