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Russia’s top army general, Sergei Surovkin, has been arrested as the Kremlin cracks down on Wagner sympathizers following last week’s failed militia revolt.
Surovikin, a prominent Russian general known to be on good terms with Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, has not been heard from for several days and has been arrested, according to three people familiar with the matter.
It is not yet clear if Surovkin, the commander of the Russian air force, has been charged with conspiracy in the uprising led by Prigozhin on Saturday, or if he has been held for questioning.
Members of Moscow’s elite said Vladimir Putin has begun a purge at the top of the security services, with the president moving to crush critics, restore order and re-establish his dominance after Russia’s first coup attempt in three years. contracts.
Many hardliners known to sympathize with Wagner and criticize the regular armed forces have disappeared from view in recent days, while loyalists — such as Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, whom Prigozhin had hoped to depose in his coup — have been given a platform. It has been shown to the public while participating in high-level meetings and events.
Putin knows [Prigozhin’s uprising plans] “In advance, we understand, and so we can prepare to some extent,” a Western government official said. “He was able to see who did what that day. And now he’s cleaning the house.”
They believe Surovikin has been arrested, the official said, adding, “We understand there will be more people who will follow.”
Known as “General Armageddon” for his brutal bombing tactics in Syria, Surovkin was promoted last fall to run Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Although quickly demoted, he remained a favorite of Russia’s most hawkish pro-war community, and this spring began serving as secretary of a Wagner paramilitary unit fighting on the front line in eastern Ukraine.
As Prigozhin’s conflict with the military establishment in Moscow escalated, Surovkin is believed to have acted as a go-between.
Once the conflict degenerated into an armed insurrection against Moscow’s defense elite late Friday, Surovkin recorded a brief statement calling on the Wagner fighters to lay down their arms. Then he disappeared.
“He is not at home. There is no contact with him, his guards or his assistant,” a person familiar with the matter told the Financial Times on Wednesday.
Veteran Russian journalist Alexei Venediktov said on Wednesday that Surovkin “has not called his family for three days. His security guards are also not answering.”
Suspicions of Surovikin may have been born of his good relationship with Prigozhin. While the warlord Wagner attacked the other generals and defense elite—blaming them for the high death toll among Russian soldiers during the invasion and accusing them of “genocide”—he continued dialogue with Surovikin.
Sorovikin also clashed with senior officers at the Defense Ministry over tactics and strategy, prompting Putin to demote him from the helm of the Russian conquest after only a few months in the job. Putin reappointed Valery Gerasimov instead, and Russia launched a new offensive soon after.
The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said at the bloc’s summit on Thursday: “It is still not clear who is behind this…a military mutiny. Some generals have been arrested. So I assume Putin will be in a clean-up mode internally. And a more assertive mood.” “.
On Thursday, the Kremlin refused to answer any questions about Surovkin, telling reporters they should ask the defense ministry instead.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Wednesday denied a New York Times report, citing US officials, that the general knew of the coup plot in advance. Peskov said he expects “a lot of speculation around these events,” adding, “I think this is an example of that.”
European Union leaders will discuss the uprising and its possible repercussions at the summit in Brussels on Thursday.
Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said Thursday that the EU should respond by increasing support for Kiev. “This rebellion that took place at the end of last week will also have consequences, and we will see,” she said.
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