Surovikin: Top Russian general who vanished after Wagner rebellion fired as head of aerospace forces

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A top Russian general who went missing after the mercenary group Wagner’s insurrection in June has been fired from his role as head of the country’s aerospace forces, Russian state media reported Wednesday citing unnamed sources.

Gen. Sergey Surovikin has spent four decades as part of the Russian military, including a brief stint running Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.

He was put in charge of the conflict in October 2022, shortly after a major explosion severely damaged the Kerch bridge connecting the annexed Crimean Peninsula to mainland Russia. Surovikin was removed from that post just months later.

He has not been seen in public since June, when he released a video pleading for Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to stop his insurrection. A Russian lawmaker said in July that Surovikin is “resting.”

Documents shared with CNN in June suggested that Surovikin was a secret VIP member of Wagner. The New York Times reported in June that Surovikin may have had advanced knowledge of the rebellion, prompting widespread speculation about his role the mutiny.

Surovikin’s ouster comes about a month after another senior general, Ivan Popov, was removed from his post after accusing Moscow’s Defense Ministry leadership of betraying his troops by not providing sufficient support.

Surovikin’s military career began with service in Afghanistan in the 1980s before commanding a unit in the Second Chechen War ​in 2004. He was named the commander-in-chief of the Aerospace Forces of Russia in 2017, the position he was reportedly removed from on Wednesday.

As the head of the aerospace forces, Surovikin oversaw the Kremlin’s campaign in Syria, during which Russian combat aircraft were accused of causing widespread devastation in rebel-held areas. While Surovikin was rewarded in Moscow for his service in Syria, Human Rights Watch alleged that Surovikin may have been responsible for attacks that violated the laws of war and killed at least 1,600 civilians.

The brutality of those alleged attacks earned Surovikint the nickname “General Armageddon.” One of his former subordinates, Gleb Irisov, told CNN last year that Surovikin was disliked because of the way he tried to implement his infantry experience into the air force

“He made a lot of people very angry – they hated him,” Irisov said.

The news of Surovikin’s removal was initially reported by prominent Russian journalist and former chief of the now-closed Echo of Moscow radio station, Alexey Venediktov.

The Venediktov posted on his Telegram channel on Tuesday that Surovikin had been dismissed from his post but would continue serving the Ministry of Defense in another capacity.

According to sources cited by Russia’s business news outlet RBC, Surovikin’s removal from his post is due to his transfer to a different role, and he is currently on a short vacation.

Surovikin’s official bio on the Russian Defense Ministry’s website still lists him as the head of the aerospace forces.

CNN has reached out to the Russian Ministry of Defense for comment.


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