With zero military experience, Andrei Belousov, a wiry white-haired economist and Orthodox churchgoer who enjoys rock climbing, seems an odd pick to be Russia's new defense minister at a time when Moscow is waging war against Ukraine.

But six sources, some of whom have worked with Belousov, described a tough-talking and professional government insider who once led a campaign to wring more money out of big business for the state, proving he had sharp enough elbows to navigate the system.

In wartime, Russia's defense minister must oversee vast financial flows and economic and industrial planning while leaving the day-to-day battlefield management to others. Belousov's ability to get things done — having raised around 300 billion rubles ($3 billion) with a tax on corporate windfall profits — is likely to have impressed President Vladimir Putin.