Putin dismisses Sergei Surovikin, the general linked to Prigozhin | International

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Sergei Surovikin, in Sochi in 2021.SPUTNIK (via REUTERS)

The commander who reorganized the Russian forces after the autumn debacle, General Sergei Surovikin (Novosibirsk, 56 years old), has been dismissed by the Kremlin as head of the Russian Federation Aerospace Forces because of his closeness to the company Wagner mercenaries. After having allegedly been arrested and having remained missing for two months, since the failed rebellion of June 23 and 24, the Russian press has confirmed the cessation of the so-called 'General Armageddon', the nickname with which he is known for being a staunch supporter of the destruction of civilian infrastructure through systematic bombardments, a doctrine that he first carried out in Syria and then recovered when the invasion of Ukraine went awry. Hours later, a plane in which the head of the Wagner mercenaries, Yevgueni Prigozhin, was a passenger, crashed in Russia.

The information on the dismissal of Surovikin was advanced by the veteran Russian journalist Alexéi Venedíktov, director of a historic radio station closed by the Kremlin at the beginning of the war, Echo of Moscow. Several more media outlets later confirmed the existence of the presidential decree that dismissed the general.

Surovikin's last public appearance dates back to the weekend when Wagner's boss Yevgeny Prigozhin led a rebel column to Moscow to demand the dismissal of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and his chief of staff Valeri Gerasimov. . The mercenaries had taken Rostov-on-Don, the headquarters of the high command in the invasion of Ukraine, and were marching towards the capital without the army opposing or joining in, except for a small skirmish in which several helicopters and a reconnaissance plane were shot down. .

"I ask you to stop. The enemy is waiting for the political situation to worsen in our country," the general said on June 24 in a video that immediately raised suspicions about Surovikin's body language and the place where it had been recorded, a small cement room. Shortly after, Prigozhin put an end to the mutiny after a negotiation with Vladimir Putin in which the Belarusian president, Aleksandr Lukashenko, mediated.

Surovikin was until the mutiny one of the most popular high command in Russia. After last year's autumn setbacks on the Kharkiv and Kherson fronts, the Kremlin chose him on October 8, 2022 as the sole commander of its forces in Ukraine. His first move was to organize an orderly withdrawal from the city of Kherson to the opposite side of the Dnieper River. Second, to fortify their new lines and begin a continuous bombing campaign against Ukrainian civilian infrastructure that included power plants in the dead of winter.

However, peace was short-lived in the high command, divided between supporters and critics of his defense minister. Prigozhin, openly at odds with Shoigu and Gerasimov, openly applauded Surovikin's appointment in October 2022. So did Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, then a staunch public defender of Wagner's boss.

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The president of that republic in the Caucasus began to distance himself from Prigozhin earlier this year, when Surovikin was replaced by Gerasimov, and the owner of Wagner began to pour out increasingly harsh public criticism of the Ministry of Defense for not providing him with the ammunition that he demanded in the Bakhmut offensive.

The Kremlin settled that confrontation with a Solomonic solution: Surovikin, Gerasimov's subordinate, would be the link between the Russian Armed Forces and the Wagner Group. And when he revolted, all suspicion fell on a military man who might have been aware of Prigozhin's plans.

The general's whereabouts have been unknown for the past two months. the russian newspaper The Moscow Times and the Financial Times They reported in the week after the rebellion that the soldier had been arrested and interrogated in a preventive detention center. His wife declined to comment and her daughter limited herself to pointing out that Surovikin was "fine."

The general has been relieved of the position by the until now chief of the General Staff of the Aerospace Forces, Viktor Afzalov, who temporarily assumed command of aviation when Surovikin was promoted as head of the Russian forces in Ukraine.

According to several sources told the Russian media RBKthe ousted commander is now enjoying "a short vacation" and will be reassigned to another position in the future. Follow all the international information on Facebook and Twitteror in our weekly newsletter.

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