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Russian general Surovikin was sympathetic towards Wagner rebellion -US officials

2023.06.28 22:48


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: General Sergei Surovikin, commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, visits the Joint Headquarters of the Russian armed forces involved in military operations in Ukraine, in an unknown location in Russia, in this picture released December 17, 202

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – General Sergei Surovikin, the deputy commander of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine, was sympathetic to mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s weekend rebellion, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, though it was unclear if he actively supported it.

Prigozhin startled the world by leading an armed revolt on Saturday that brought his Wagner Group fighters from the Ukrainian border to within 200 kilometers (125 miles) of Moscow before he abruptly called off the uprising.

Three officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that Surovikin had been in support of Prigozhin but Western intelligence did not know with certainty if he had helped the rebellion in any way.

As the rebellion began, Surovikin publicly urged fighters of the Wagner private militia to give up their opposition to the military leadership and return to their bases.

“I urge you to stop,” Surovikin had said in a video posted on Telegram messaging app, his right hand resting on a rifle.

The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Surovikin had advance knowledge that Prigozhin was planning a rebellion.

The Kremlin, asked on Wednesday about the report, said there would be “a lot of speculation” in the aftermath of the events.

Surovikin, nicknamed “General Armageddon” by the Russian media for his reputed ruthlessness, is a veteran of wars in Chechnya and Syria who has been decorated by President Vladimir Putin.

In October, Surovikin was put in charge of the military campaign in Ukraine but was moved into a deputy role earlier this year after Russia’s limited success in the invasion.

Prigozhin, a one-time Putin ally, in recent months has carried out an increasingly bitter feud with Moscow, including publicly saying his troops were not being provided enough weapons by the Russian ministry of defense.

U.S. officials and Western officials said Prigozhin had been stockpiling weaponry ahead of the mutiny attempt. The U.S. officials suggested he must have believed he had enough firepower and sympathy within the Russian military to carry out his uprising.

Still, a Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Prigozhin ultimately miscalculated by believing that his loyalty to Putin, his usefulness to the Kremlin and his support among Russian military officials would be enough to insulate him from consequences.

Putin initially vowed to crush the mutiny, comparing it to the wartime turmoil that ushered in the revolutions of 1917 and then a civil war, but hours later a deal was clinched to allow Prigozhin and some of his fighters to go to Belarus.

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