Russia's 'General Armageddon' Knew of Rebellion Plan: Report

US officials tell 'NYT' they're looking into whether Gen. Sergey Surovikin helped Prigozhin's uprising
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 28, 2023 7:52 AM CDT
Russia's 'General Armageddon' Knew of Rebellion Plan: Report
In this handout photo taken from video on Nov. 9, Gen. Sergei Surovikin is seen.   (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)

Yevgeny Prigozhin's short-lived rebellion against Russia's military over the weekend may have had some inside help. US officials briefed on homeland intelligence tell the New York Times that Gen. Sergey Surovikin, who was Russia's top commander in the Ukraine invasion until earlier this year, knew of the Wagner Group mercenary leader's plans ahead of time for what the Times calls "the most dramatic threat to President Vladimir V. Putin in his 23 years in power." Both former and current US officials say Prigozhin wouldn't have made such a risky move unless he thought he had the backing of higher-ups in the Russian military, and Surovikin would seem to be a logical ally.

The Moscow Times notes that Surovikin, who led Russian forces in Ukraine from October through January, was replaced by Chief of General Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov—whom, along with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, has been put on blast in recent months by Prigozhin. Meanwhile, the Wagner Group chief has lauded Surovikin, who has been nicknamed "General Armageddon" by Russian media, in the past, per Reuters. "This is the only man with the star of an army general who knows how to fight," Prigozhin said last month in announcing that the only person he'd deal with in the Russian military going forward was Surovikin.

US officials tell the New York Times that other Russian generals may have played a role in the rebellion as well. If Surovikin did indeed help plan the uprising, the paper notes that "could signal a wider fracture between supporters of Mr. Prigozhin" and those who back Gerasimov and Shoigu. The speculation also means that Putin "must now decide ... whether he believes that General Surovikin helped Mr. Prigozhin and how he should respond."

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Analysts say that if Surovikin merely had some knowledge of the rebellion beforehand, Putin may opt to keep him—but if Surovikin helped plan things, that could mean his ouster is imminent. As the rebellion unfolded, Surovikin did appear in a video urging Russian troops to not join in the uprising, but an ex-US official says that footage looked like "a hostage video," with Surovikin seeming uneasy about "denouncing a former ally, one who shared his view of the Russian military leadership," per the Times. (More Russia rebellion stories.)

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