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‘They grabbed him by the balls’ In the aftermath of the Prigozhin-led mutiny, Sergey Surovikin, the general who sympathized with Wagner Group the most, is bruited to be in trouble

Source: Meduza
Gavriil Grigorov / Sputnik / AFP / Scanpix / LETA

In the wake of Yevgeny Prigozhin’s “march of justice,” General of the Army Sergey Surovikin may possibly have been arrested and questioned by the Russian authorities. The general has not appeared in public since June 24, when he addressed the Wagner fighters, urging them to stop the mutiny. According to The Financial Times and its sources, it’s still unclear whether Surovikin is being handled as a witness or an immediate party to the Prigozhin conspiracy.

Pro-war Russian Telegram channels are reacting to Surovikin’s disappearance. The prominent channel Rybar, for example, notes that Surovikin has been out of sight since Saturday and may have been detained for questioning. The self-styled “war correspondent” Vladimir Romanov claims that Surovikin was “taken to Lefortovo,” one of Russia’s seven federal detention centers, dedicated to FSB-prosecuted terrorism, treason, and espionage cases. According to Romanov, Surovikin was arrested on June 25, the day after Prigozhin’s insurrection fizzled out.

The Moscow Times also reported on the general’s arrest, citing Defense Ministry sources who said it happened on June 28. “He must have sided with the rebels,” said one of the sources, “so they grabbed him by the balls.”

Alexey Venediktov, formerly editor-in-chief of Echo of Moscow, does not believe that Surovikin is at Lefortovo, but agrees it’s strange that neither the general nor his security staff were reachable over the past three days. According to Venediktov’s information, Surovikin’s next-in-command, Colonel General Andrey Yudin, has been fired. In response to the rumors that he had also been arrested, Yudin announced that he’s home, taking a vacation.

Another pro-war Telegram channel, MIG Rossii, commented on the rumors in the evening on June 28, writing that “an investigation is underway.” When next morning the same channel announced that Surovikin had just attended a meeting in Rostov, the journalist Dmitry Kolezev promptly disputed this claim as deliberate misinformation, possibly meant to dispel the tension in the army ranks. One of Kolezev’s sources told the reporter that Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu was allegedly “afraid of Surovikin’s return.” “To excuse himself in front of Putin, he accused Surovikin of treason,” the same speaker said, adding that the move is felt to be dangerous, since the officer corps supports Surovikin over Shoigu.

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The Telegram channel VChK-OGPU reports that people from Surovikin’s immediate circle have already started to “reappear.” According to one the channel’s sources, “some kind of preventive measures” must have taken place, but it clearly didn’t come to arresting anyone.

Two sources close to the General Staff and the FSB have told the independent publication iStories that Surovikin has been interrogated and then released. Bloomberg too reports on the fact of interrogation, writing that it took several days and concerned Surovikin’s ties to Prigozhin. According to the publication, Surovikin is barred from traveling but isn’t under arrest.

The Telegram news channel Baza has published a purported conversation with Surovikin’s daughter Veronika, who says that her father is perfectly fine and continues to work. Her father, she said, “has never appeared in the media with daily statements.”

According to the military blogger Boris Rozhin, Surovikin still occupies his position in the command of the Russian army. The blogger reminded his audience that spreading false rumors about the general’s arrest can be qualified as a crime under the Russian law against military “fakes” and “discrediting” the army.

The Western media are consistent in suggesting that Surovikin was informed about Prigozhin’s insurrectionary plans. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times ran stories to that effect, the latter’s sources suggesting that Prigozhin’s alliance with Surovikin may have saved the insurgent leader’s life.

The Financial Times has, in turn, described Surovikin as a bridge between Prigozhin and the Defense Ministry, citing their history of good relations despite Prigozhin’s conflict with Defense Minister Shoigu. Political scientist Tatyana Stanovaya thinks it’s Shoigu who emerged a winner from his conflict with Prigozhin, since he ultimately succeeded in getting Putin to formally turn private paramilitary outfits into Defense Ministry contractors. In the context of Shoigu’s strengthened position, a rebel sympathizer like Surovikin can be easily portrayed as a conspirator, Stanovaya told The Financial Times.

The Kremlin itself denies Western reports of trouble with Surovikin as mere “gossip” and “speculation.” On June 29, Dmitry Peskov advised the Russian press to take any questions about the general straight to the Defense Ministry. The latter, however, has so far refrained from commenting on Surovikin’s fate.

Prigozhin’s next chapter

Room to breathe As he relocates to Belarus in a deal with the Kremlin, Yevgeny Prigozhin’s next fight will be to keep what he can of Wagner Group

Prigozhin’s next chapter

Room to breathe As he relocates to Belarus in a deal with the Kremlin, Yevgeny Prigozhin’s next fight will be to keep what he can of Wagner Group

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