Surovikin, is a highly decorated officer and became nicknamed “General Armageddon” for his ruthless tactics while conducting operations in Chechnya and Syria. He is currently the head of Russian aerospace forces and deputy commander of their forces in Ukraine. He has not been seen in public since Wagner’s failed uprising on Saturday, June 24.

The New York Times had cited US intelligence sources earlier to report that Surovikin had prior knowledge of the June 23-24 rebellion led by the Wagner chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, with whom he had well publicized links.

It was then reported on June 27 on the Ukraine Telegram channel, quoting the Russian “rosZMI” media outlet that Surovikin had been arrested and was being detained in the Lefortovo pre-trial detention center along with his deputy, Colonel-General Andriy Yudin.

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Yudin was then quoted by the “Ura.ru” website as saying that this was false information and he was at home “on leave,” although it was confirmed on June 29 that he had in fact been fired. It was unclear why or whether it was connected to the Prigozhin debacle; but the timing seems more than just coincidence.

The Financial Times said on June 29 that they had been informed that “three people familiar with the matter” had reported that Surovikin was being detained at an unknown location. It was not clear whether he had been charged as part of the plot that led to Prigozhin’s “march for justice,” or was simply detained for interrogation on what he may or may not have known. 

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The Bloomberg news site said on Thursday that although it was not clear whether Surovikin’s detention was part of a formal investigation it cited sources saying he was being questioned by military prosecutors over his links to Wagner and, while he is not in prison, he is being “kept in one place.”

 Several Russian independent media platforms, citing Moscow security sources, said Surovikin was not currently under arrest but was cooperating in the investigation. 

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Sergei Markov, a former member of parliament and a Kremlin-linked political scientist said the authorities should “show Surovikin to everyone” or Russians “might think of large-scale, secret arrests.”

Markov also said the general was being questioned not as a suspect but “as a very informed” source, adding: “Surovikin was the main go-between for the defense ministry and Wagner, so he knows more than anyone else.”

 On the same day, the Russian media aggregator Baza, which has close links to Russia’s FSB security service, spoke to Surovikin’s daughter Veronika who said “Nothing happened to him, he is at his workplace as usual.”

She also said that, anyway, him not being seen wasn’t unusual, as the general “never appeared every day in the media and did not make [public] statements.” The wife of Surovikin, who almost never appears or speaks in public, refused to comment on the rumors about his arrest.

 A further complication to the mystery was revealed by CNN later on June 29 when it revealed it had seen documents provided by the investigative platform Dossier Center. These showed that Surovikin, along with at least 30 other senior Russian military and intelligence officials, was a “secret VIP member” of the Wagner private military company and held a personal registration number issued by the group. 

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It was not made clear what this VIP membership involves and whether Surovikin derived any financial benefit from the more than $1 billion income Wagner received from the Kremlin in the past year.

 It was already known that Surovikin had links to Prigozhin and the mercenary group. The two worked closely during Russia’s military intervention in Syria and Prigozhin has previously described the general as a “legendary figure.”

 CNN says that the documents raise questions not only about Surovikin but also which other senior members of the Russian military and security establishment have links to Wagner and what would be the implications. 

The Dossier Center was created and is supported by Mikhail Khodorkovsky the exiled Russian oligarch and long-time opponent of Putin. It lists its mission as being to: “track the criminal activity of… [the] de facto criminal organization that operates from within the Kremlin.

“The Dossier Center maps out this network, compiling extensive case files against corrupt individuals and the institutions they may control.”

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The Kremlin has refused to clarify the fate of Surovikin. Asked by reporters, during one of his regular press briefing sessions on June 29, if he could clarify the situation with the general, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said: “No, unfortunately not.” 

“So, I recommend that you contact the defense ministry; this is its prerogative.”

When a reporter asked if Russian president Vladimir Putin still had trust in Surovikin, Peskov replied:

“He is the supreme commander-in-chief, and he works with the defense minister and with the chief of the General Staff.”

Asked about Prigozhin’s whereabouts, Peskov said he did not have information about his location at the present time. 

This came as satellite imagery appeared to show rapid building activity at military bases in Asipovichy and Tesl in southern Belarus, prompting speculation that Wagner troops would soon relocate to the country in line with an agreement said to have been negotiated by Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko.

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Comments ( 1)

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Randy Vellacott
This comment contains spoilers. Click here if you want to read.

As the Wagner Group is the product of two Russian security services its management and operations are deeply intertwined with the Russian military and intelligence community. As a result, Wagner should be considered a proxy organization of the Russian state rather than a private company selling services on the open market. Little wonder that there are military personnel on the books.

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