Surovikin and Gerasimov have not been seen in public in recent days
Russian generals in the highest echelons of the military hierarchy have disappeared after the short mutiny of Wagner in order to overthrow of the Russian military leadershipin the midst of the effort made by Vladimir Putin to regain its prestige.
According to unconfirmed information, at least one of these generals has been arrested.
The chief of the general staff, general Valery Gerasimov has not appeared in public or on state television after last Saturday’s mutiny when Yevgeny Prigozhin demanded the surrender of Gerasimov. Nor has it been mentioned in Russian Defense Ministry press releases since June 9.
The 67-year-old Gerasimov is the military commander of war operations in Ukraine and the operator of one of Russia’s three “nuclear suitcases,” according to Western military analysts.
He is absent and the general Sergey Surovikin, The “General of Armageddon” because of his tactics in the war in Syria, who is deputy commander of Russian forces in Ukraine.
New York Times publicationbased on information from the US Intelligence services, he says he was aware of the mutiny before it took place, and Russian authorities are investigating whether he was an accomplice.
The Kremlin downplayed the publication’s information, calling it “speculation and gossip.”
American officials said that Surovikin supported Prigozhinbut Western intelligence agencies don’t know for sure if we joined the insurgency in any way.
The English-language edition of the Moscow Times and a military blogger they relayed the information that Surovikin had been arrestedwhile other Russian military journalists claim that he and other high-ranking officers are being interrogated by the FSB Intelligence and Security Services to ascertain their loyalty.
Reuters has not been able to confirm whether Surovikin has indeed been arrested or is being examined along with others as part of a routine check.
Rybar, a Telegram channel owned by a former Russian Defense Ministry press service official, reported that a wave of liquidations is underway.
According to Rybar, the Russian authorities are trying to purge military personnel who have shown a “lack of resolve” to suppress the rebellion, as there are reports that parts of the armed forces did not make much effort to stop the advance of Wagner’s forces during the early stages of the rebellion.
“The private military company’s armed mutiny became the pretext for mass purges in the ranks of the Russian Armed Forces”according to Rybar.
If this is confirmed, it will mean changes in the way Russia is managing the war in Ukraine; and will cause unrest in the ranks of the army at a time when Moscow is trying to focus on the Ukrainian counterattack.
Winners and losers
Some Russian and Western military and political analysts believe that Defense Minister Sergei Shoigua veteran ally of Putin, whose overthrow, along with Gerasimov’s, sought Prigozhin, denouncing their incompetenceit is possible that he is now more secure in his post.
“I think Prigozhin expected something to happen with Shoigu and Gerasimov, that Putin would act in his favor,” tweeted Michael Kofman, a Russian military analyst at the Carnegie Endowment.
“On the contrary, Prigozhin’s mutiny is likely to have secured them in their posts, despite the fact that they are widely regarded as both incompetent and loathsome in the ranks of the Russian Federation armed forces.”
General Viktor Zolotovhead of the National Guard and one-time Putin bodyguard, seems to belong to the winning team, after he appeared publicly to declare that his men were ready “to fight to the death” to defend Moscow from Wagner.
THE Zolotov also talked about her possibility of equipping the National Guard with heavy weapons and tanks after the mutiny.
Gerasimov’s absence is suspicious from the event where Putin thanked the military for averting civil war, while Shoigu has made several public appearances since then.
THE SurovikinGerasimov’s second-in-command, made her last public appearance of Saturday, during the development of the rebellion, in a video calling for Prigozhin to stop. The video was accompanied by a flurry of comments on social media that wanted the Russian general drunk or under duress.
Dara Massicot, an expert on the Russian armed forces at the RAND Corporation, said that something is strange about this video, in which Surovikin has an assault rifle on his knees.
“I noticed a few days ago, something is off here. He doesn’t wear his insignia…30+ years in the Army and he doesn’t wear them, not even at night? No” he wrote on Twitter.
According to unconfirmed information from Russian media and bloggers who do not cite specific sources, Surovikin is being held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison.
Alexei Venediktov, a well-connected journalist, stated – without citing sources – that Surovikin has not been in contact with his family since Saturday and that his bodyguards have also gone silent.
THE Prigozhin, who has been making constant attacks for months against Shoigu and Gerasimov for their incompetence in the war in Ukraine, while praising Surovikin who is widely “respected” in the military for his performance in Chechnya and Syria.
Surovikin was for a time commander of Russian forces in Ukraine before being replaced by Gerasimov. Western military analysts consider him to be an effective operator, who has been introduced by some Russian war correspondents as a future defense minister.
THE Lawrence Freedmanemeritus professor of Military Studies at King’s College London, said that the removal of Surovikin, if true, will be more destabilizing to Russian military operations than last Saturday’s mutiny itself, especially if the purges extend to other Prigozhin/Surovikin-related military personnel.
“Surovikin is uncouth, but also one of the most capable Russian military commanders”Lawrence Freedman noted on Twitter.
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