Russia’s Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who had disappeared from public view since the failed Wagner rebellion earlier this summer, has been sacked, Kremlin state media announced on Wednesday.
Nicknamed “General Armageddon” for his ruthless methods, Surovikin had close ties with Wagner and was rumored to have been removed after the mercenary group rebelled against Russia’s military leadership.
“Ex-chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces Sergei Surovikin has been relieved of his post,” Russia’s state-run RIA news agency quoted a source as saying.
RIA news added that Col.-Gen. Viktor Afzalov, Chief of Staff of the aerospace force, would temporarily replace Surovikin in his former role.
Surovikin – a veteran of Moscow’s wars starting with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan – was a leading commander in Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine and had long been seen as Wagner’s ally in the defense ministry.
In May, when Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin furiously accused Russian military leaders of failing to provide his forces with ammunition, Surovikin was officially named as an intermediary between Wagner and the army.
Then, on the night between June 23 and 24, after Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin called for the toppling of Russia’s military command, Surovikin made a highly unusual video appeal to the mercenary group.
Less than 24 hours later, Prigozhin had turned his forces back and agreed to a deal with the Kremlin whereby he would be exiled to Belarus.
Surovikin has made no public appearances afterwards, prompting furious speculation that he had been detained or removed from his post.
In July, a lawmaker and former army officer from Russia’s ruling party said that Surovikin was “resting” and “not available.”
Surovikin, aged 56, previously worked in Afghanistan with the Soviet Union’s special forces. In 1991, aged 24, he was put in charge of the 2nd Guards Motor Rifle Division during the failed coup attempt. The coup failed and Surovikin was jailed for six months after troops under his command killed three unarmed demonstrators.
Surovikin actively participated in the Second Chechen War as well as military action that shook Tajikistan in the early 1990s.
Russian-backed Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, in a letter dated Oct. 8, 2022, said that he has known Surovikin for nearly 15 years, that “the united group of forces is now in good hands” and that he is convinced Surovikin will “make things right” at the front.
In May 2017, Surovikin was selected to lead Russian troops in Syria, and was appointed commander of the Russian Aerospace Forces in October of the same year.
For the Syria operation, he was honored with the title “Hero of Russia.”
This is despite reports of Surovikin targeting homes, schools, healthcare facilities, and markets as part of operations in the country.
Surovikin received a promotion to general status in August 2021, making him the highest-ranking officer in the Russian military at the time.
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