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Defense Ministry stays quiet as sources unveil Surovikin's arrest after Wagner PMC mutiny, reports The Moscow Times

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Sergei Surovikin, the Commander-in-Chief of Russia’s Aerospace Forces and Deputy Commander of the Russian grouping in Ukraine, has been arrested, according to a report by the The Moscow Times citing two sources close to the Defense Ministry. The Defense Ministry has not responded to the report.

“The story with him wasn't 'OK,' for the authorities. I can't say anything else,” commented one source on the reason for the arrest.

The second source said that Surovikin was arrested in light of the recent armed rebellion raised by Yevgeny Prigozhin and his fighters from the Wagner Private Military Company (PMC). The source assumes that Surovikin had chosen the side of Prigozhin, and was then “grabbed by the balls” [direct quote — The Insider]. When asked where the general is now, the source replied: “That information isn’t commented on even through internal channels.”

The initial report of Surovikin's potential arrest surfaced on Vladimir Romanov's Telegram channel, a propaganda blogger. According to Romanov, Surovikin was arrested on June 25, the day following the Wagner PMC mutiny. Romanov asserts that Surovikin is being held at Moscow's «Lefortovo» pre-trial detention center. However, the source of Romanov's information remains undisclosed.

The sources pointed out that it is not entirely clear whether Surovikin was aware of Prigozhin's mutiny.

“He did not behave particularly obediently when he was tasked to read the text on camera and take part in resolving the situation. He was too insolent to the leadership. This may have given the impression that Surovikin was part of the ‘Prigozhin coalition,’” the source emphasizes.

On June 28, The New York Times, citing US officials familiar with intelligence reports, reported that Surovikin knew about Prigozhin's plans to rebel against Russia's military leadership in advance. US authorities are now trying to find out whether Surovikin had any involvement in the rebellion plan.

On June 23, Prigozhin claimed that the Russian Defense Ministry carried out missile strikes on the Wagner PMC’s rear camps. He promised to respond to the strike, which, in his words, “resulted in the death of many soldiers,” and “to deal with those who destroy Russian soldiers.” Prigozhin’s forces then occupied Rostov-on-Don, a major city in southern Russia, and attempted to reach Moscow, stopping several hundreds of kilometers short after Prigozhin was allegedly offered a deal by Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus guaranteeing his personal safety and that of his soldiers. During the revolt, Surovikin appealed to the Wagner PMC mercenaries, advising them against escalating the internal political situation.

In 1991, Surovikin personally commanded a column of armored vehicles that crushed people during the August Coup, after following orders from the State Committee on the State of Emergency (GKChP) — a group of Soviet hard-liners opposed to Mikhail Gorbachev that attempted to keep the USSR together by force. Three young men were killed in a clash between protesters and Surovikin’s unit: Vladimir Usov, Dmitry Komar and Ilya Krichevsky. According to the government’s official version, the column was stopped by the crowd in the tunnel under Novy Arbat, and blockades were built on the road.

“Surovikin addressed the crowd with warnings ... Demanded that the column be let through and fired two warning shots upwards from his service weapon. Then he and part of the column broke through the blockade and left the scene of the conflict. Three young men died as the crowd continued to attack the remaining combat vehicles,” Alexander Cherkasov, a member of the board of the Memorial Human Rights Defense Center, told Novaya Gazeta Europe in an interview recalling the event. According to RIA Novosti, Surovikin was later interned at the Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention center, but Boris Yeltsin personally ordered his release.

In 1995, Surovikin was convicted of multiple crimes, including aiding and abetting, unauthorized purchase and sale of firearms and ammunition, and carrying them without a permit. These offenses carried a maximum prison sentence of eight years. However, according to Radio Liberty, he received a lenient sentence of one year suspended. Independent investigative outlet Proekt reported that as the investigation progressed, it became evident that Surovikin had been framed, leading to the dropping of charges and expungement of his convictions.

In March 2004, Lieutenant Colonel Tsibizov formally accused Major General Surovikin of assaulting the division commander “for political reasons,” as revealed by Proekt. However, Tsibizov later retracted his statement to the prosecutor's office.

In 2014, Surovikin's name resurfaced in the media when Leonid Volkov, then head of Alexei Navalny's headquarters, alleged that Surovikin was involved in deploying tank units to southeastern Ukraine while working in the Rostov region. In 2017, Vladimir Putin appointed Surovikin as the commander of Russia's Aerospace Forces. During his tenure, he was deployed to Syria twice, spending over a year in total in the country.

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