Russia dismisses General Surovikin, missing since Wagner’s failed mutiny

The Russian general Sergei Surovikin, perceived as close to the head of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgueni Prigozhin, has been dismissed as head of the Aerospace Forces, a position he had held since 2017, as reported by the state agency RIA on Wednesday.

“He is currently in the middle of a short vacation,” a source told RBC on Tuesday, to which a second source confirmed the Russian Defense Ministry’s decision. The general will be replaced by Viktor Afzalov, until now chief of staff of the air force, according to RIA.

Surovikin, 56, has also automatically ceased to be deputy commander of the Russian forces operating in Ukraine as part of the military campaign that began in February 2022.

The general assumed command of those troops in October last year after the explosion that damaged the Crimean bridge, and during his tenure he ordered the withdrawal of the northern third of the Ukrainian region of Kherson. In January 2023, he was demoted and replaced by Gerasimov as top commander of the military forces fighting in Ukraine after just three months in office. Putin nevertheless left him the deputy command of the troops in Ukraine.

In the first months of the war, he participated in the capture of the cities of Severodonetsk, the siege of the Azot factory and the conquest of Lisichansk, all in the eastern region of Lugansk.

Surovikin fell into disgrace after the failed armed rebellion led by Prigozhin, who at the time acknowledged having personally planned the operation with said general to take the city of Bakhmut, something that the mercenaries achieved last May.

Criticizing Gerasimov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Prigozhin assured that with Surovikin in command his men would never have had problems with the supply of equipment and ammunition, for which he blamed the first two on several occasions.

Since the Wagner uprising on June 23 and 24, Surovikin has disappeared from the public eye, although in mid-July a deputy, Andrei Kartapolov, assured: “He is resting.” Some media reported his arrest. The Kremlin never confirmed the general’s arrest for supporting the mutiny, which was also refuted by his own daughter.

Wagner’s mercenaries were then sent to their new base, Belarus, from where they have resumed their operations in Africa, Prigozhin suggested in his first video since the rebellion.

Surovikin led, with the exception of a few months, the Russian military contingent in Syria between 2017 and 2019, for which Russian President Vladimir Putin personally awarded him the Hero of Russia award.

He is known as “General Armageddon” for the brutality of his operations against cities like Aleppo controlled by the opposition to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

A Human Rights Watch report published in 2020 denounced dozens of air and ground attacks against civilian objects and infrastructure. The report documented that Russian forces under his command attacked “Syrian homes, schools, health facilities and markets, the places where the population lives, works and studies.”

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