Prigogine, Wagner leader, listed as passenger on plane in fatal crash: latest update – World

General Sergei Surovykin, the former commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, was removed from his post as head of Russia’s air force, in what appears to be the Kremlin’s most public move against those involved in the armed rebellion of mercenary warlord Yevgeny V. Prigozhin. In June.

A low-key crackdown in response to the uprising, President Vladimir V. The threat, the most severe in Putin’s 23-year rule, underscores the Russian leader’s cautious crisis-management style. So far, General Surovykin is the only senior official with whom Mr. Prigozhin has ties that Russian state media has confirmed has been deposed or otherwise punished.

Some Wagner fighters have moved to Belarus, where officials say the mercenaries are training Belarusian soldiers; Others are active in the Central African Republic, Mali and elsewhere in Africa, where they have aided authoritarian leaders loyal to Moscow.

Mr Prigogine released a short video message online for the first time since the uprising on Monday, indicating he was in Africa, although the time and location of the video recording was unclear. Wearing fatigues and holding an assault rifle, he said Wagner was “making Russia greater, all continents and Africa freer.”

General Surovykin has not been seen in public since the uprising and his whereabouts remain a mystery. In July, Andrei Kartapolov, head of the defense committee of Russia’s lower house of parliament, said that General Surovykin was “resting” in response to a reporter’s question.

on wednesday, RIA Novosti, a Russian state news agency said that “the former commander in chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces, Sergei Surovykin, has now been relieved of his post.” It said that Air Force Chief of General Staff Colonel General Viktor Afzalov has been named as acting commander.

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“Surovikin was relieved of his post due to transfer to another job. He is now on a short vacation,” the RIA report added, citing a report by Russian news outlet RBC.

Analysts have described General Surovykin, dubbed “General Armageddon” for his ruthless tactics, as a brutally effective leader of a Russian military that even many Russian cheerleaders for the war described as frustrated by the incompetence of its command structure. But his association with Mr. Prigogine’s Wagner mercenary group, which captured a Russian city and launched a march on Moscow in his brief rebellion, hastened his fall from grace.

US officials believe that General Surovykin had advance knowledge of Mr Prigogine’s rebellion. Within hours of the uprising, Russian authorities quickly released a video calling on General Wagner’s fighters to stand down.

Rumors have circulated among Russian military bloggers, some of whom have close ties to Russian officials and the military, that General Surovykin has been under house arrest since the failed coup.

Reports of General Surovykin’s dismissal are “far from news to those in the know,” wrote Mikhail Zyvinchuk, a popular pro-war Russian blogger who posts under the moniker Ryber on the messaging app Telegram. He added that General Surovykin lost his job soon after Mr. Prigozhin’s rebellion.

General Surovykin was appointed to lead what Russian officials described as a “special military operation” in Ukraine in October 2022 before being relieved of that job in January. In 2015, he commanded Russian forces during the country’s intervention in Syria, and since 2017 he has been the head of the Russian Air Force.

During his three-month tenure as commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, General Surovykin helped stabilize Russia’s failing war effort. In the fall, analysts described as professionally managed the withdrawal of Russian troops from the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson, where they were nearly surrounded and cut off from supplies last fall.

He is also believed to have led the construction of Russia’s formidable network of defensive lines in the occupied territories of Ukraine, which have challenged Kiev’s counteroffensive.

General Afzalov, who replaced General Surovikin, has been the Air Force Chief of Staff since 2018, according to Russia. State media, rising through the ranks. According to Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Ministry, he was directly involved in planning and organizing the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. a post On social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.

General Afzalov previously served as interim commander of the Russian Air Force while General Surovykin led the Russian Armed Forces in Ukraine. Suspicions that General Afzalov had succeeded General Surovykin were raised in July, when the former was appointed by Russia’s top military officer, General Valery V. Official video footage showed an Air Force briefing to Gerasimov.

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