Top Russian generals disappeared from view in the wake of a failed revolt by Wagner Group mercenaries last weekend aimed at ousting senior officers, amid a campaign by President Vladimir Putin to reassert his power, and unconfirmed reports of at least one arrest.
Valery GerasimovHe, Russia’s highest-ranking general, has not appeared in public or on state television since Saturday’s failed riot when mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin demanded Gerasimov’s surrender. Nor has it been mentioned in a Defense Department press release since June 9.
According to some Western military analysts, Gerasimov, 67, is the leader of Russia’s war in Ukraine and possesses one of Russia’s three “nuclear portfolios”.
The general is also absent Sergei Surovikin, nicknamed “General Armageddon” By the Russian press for his aggressive tactics in the Syrian conflict, he is the deputy commander of Russian forces in Ukraine.
Information from the “New York Times”, based on a US intelligence report, said on Tuesday that it had advance knowledge of the riots and that Russian authorities were investigating whether they were complicit. On Wednesday, the Kremlin downplayed the report, saying there had been too much speculation and gossip.
The Russian edition of “The Moscow Times” and a military blogger reported Surovkin’s arrest on Wednesday, while other military correspondents with a large following in Russia said he and other senior officers They were interrogated about his possible role in the riots.
Purge for “no decision”
Rybar, an influencer on messaging app Telegram run by a former press chief of the Russian Defense Ministry, said a purge is underway.
He said that the authorities were trying to get rid of the military who were believed to have shown up “lack of resolution” to quell the riot Amid some reports that parts of the armed forces apparently did little to stop the Wagner fighters in the early stages of the war.
“The armed rebellion of the private military company Wagner has become a pretext Large-scale purge in the ranks of the Russian Armed ForcesRebar said.
Such a move, if confirmed, could upend the way Russia wages its war in Ukraine, which it calls a “special military operation,” and cause unrest in the ranks of the forces at a time when Moscow is trying to block a Ukrainian counterattack.
It could also promote or elevate the positions of other senior military and security figures deemed loyal.
There was no official comment on what was happening from the Ministry of Defense.
Some Russian and Western political and military analysts believe Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, a longtime Putin ally whom Prigozhin wanted to oust along with Gerasimov over his alleged incompetence, may now be more secure in his job.
“I think he (Prigozhin) really hoped that something would be done with Shoigu and Gerasimov, and that Putin would rule in his favour,” Michael Kaufman, a Russia military specialist at the Carnegie Endowment think tank, wrote on Twitter.
Instead, yesor rebellion had secured his term in officealthough it is universally recognized as incompetent and widely hated in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
Viktor Zolotov, the head of the National Guard who used to be Putin’s bodyguard, appears to be another beneficiary after appearing in public to say his men are ready.Resistance to deathTo defend Moscow from Wagner.
He talked about the possibility of obtaining heavy weapons and tanks for his forces after the rebellion.
The vain generals
Gerasimov’s absence was conspicuous, with Putin thanking the military on Tuesday for avoiding civil war, in contrast to Shoigu, who has made many public appearances since then.
Surovikin, Gerasimov’s lieutenant, was last seen on Saturday when he appeared in a videotape calling on Prigozhin to stop the rioting. He looked exhausted and it was not clear if he was speaking under duress..
There were unconfirmed reports from bloggers and Russian media on Wednesday night that Surovkin is being held at Lefortovo Detention Center in Moscow following his arrest.
Alexei Venediktov, a well-connected journalist, said so without indicating his sources Surovkin has not been in contact with his family since Saturday And that his bodyguards were also silent.
Prigozhin, who has spent months denigrating Shoigu and Gerasimov for their alleged incompetence in the Ukraine War, frequently praises Surovkin, who is well respected in the military for his experience in Chechnya and Syria.
Surovikin, who was the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian war before Gerasimov was appointed to take command, is considered an effective operative by Western military analysts and parts of the Ukrainian military.
Russian war correspondents talked about him as a possible future defense minister.