Russian authorities have detained Sergei Surovikin, the Commander-in-Chief of Russia’s Aerospace Forces and Deputy Commander of the Russian grouping in Ukraine, according to a report by the Financial Times citing three unnamed sources with knowledge of the matter. As the newspaper notes, it remains unclear whether Surovikin “has been charged as a plotter in the uprising led by [Wagner PMC chief Yevgeny] Prigozhin on Saturday, or simply detained for interrogation.”
According to the FT’s sources in Moscow, Vladimir Putin has launched a crackdown at the top of the Russian security forces in order “restore order and re-establish his dominance after the first coup attempt in Russia in three decades.”
“Putin knew about [Prigozhin’s uprising plans] in advance, as we understand, and so could prepare to a certain extent,” a western government official told the FT. “He was able to see who did what on that day. And he’s now cleaning house.”
On the night of June 24, when Prigozhin announced the mutiny, Surovikin recorded a short video appeal to Wagner Group fighters to lay down their arms, after which he disappeared. Russian journalist Alexei Venediktov said on Wednesday that Surovikin “has not been in touch with his family for three days. His security guards do not answer either.”
According to the newspaper, suspicion may have fallen on Surovikin due to his good relations with Prigozhin, who has sharply criticized other members of Russia's top army command.
The Financial Times' report has not been verified by other independent publications.
Two sources close to Russia's General Staff and Federal Security Service (FSB) cited by independent investigative outlet Important Stories (IStories) denied that General Surovikin had been detained in connection with his involvement in the recent Wagner Group mutiny.
The sources deny his arrest and state that he is not currently held at Moscow's Lefortovo pretrial detention center. They clarify that Surovikin was indeed interrogated but subsequently released.
Earlier on June 28, The Moscow Times reported on Surovikin's arrest, citing two sources close to the Defense Ministry. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to answer questions about Surovikin following the report, redirecting them to the Russian Defense Ministry.