Russia detains 'at least a dozen' high ranking military officers'

Putin’s purge: Russian strongman arrested ‘at least a dozen’ high ranking military officers after Wagner mutiny to ‘clean the ranks’ of traitors

  • General Sergei Surovikin, head of aerospace forces, is among those detained
  • Maj Gen Ivan Popov claimed he had been relieved of duty for being a ‘threat’ 

Russia has detained multiple high ranking military officers as the Kremlin looks to purge the military of those it suspects of disloyalty following the Wagner uprising.

Well placed sources claim that at least 13 senior officers have since been detained, with some later released , with others suspended or fired from their roles as Vladimir Putin’s inquisition looks for betrayal in the ranks.

Among those believed to have been taken into questioning are General Sergei Surovikin, the head of Russia’s aerospace forces who is known as ‘General Armageddon’ for his bloody bombing campaigns in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The top officer has not been seen in public since the day of the mutiny, although one Russian official claimed earlier this week he was ‘not available right now’ as he was resting.

Other senior officers believed to have been targeted include Surovikin’s second in command, Colonel General Andrey Yudin, the deputy head of military intelligence, Lieutenant General Vladimir Alexeyev and former deputy defence minister Mikhail Mizintsev.

General Sergei Surovikin, pictured here in a video urging Wagner troops to stop their uprising last month, is reported to have been detained by the Kremlin

Former Colonel General and deputy defence minister Mikhail Mizintsev, is understood to be among those taken in for questioning

Weeks after the dramatic mutiny saw soldiers from the mercenary army march on Moscow before stopping after last minute talks between President Vladimir Putin and Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, reprisals within the armed forces appear to have started. 

Prigozhin, who also has not been seen in public since the end of the uprising, had marched on the Russian capital demanding the resignation of Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov. 

However, the pair have since remained in their jobs and Prigozhin – who said mutiny was not a move against Putin – has  started to transfer his private army to Belarus.

READ MORE HERE: Joe Biden warns Wagner leader Prigozhin he might be POISONED and says Putin has ‘already lost the war’ 

Other senior officers have been targeted though, with Surovikin – who insiders claim knew about the insurrection on June 23 before it happened, but was not involved in planning it – among those detained and taken in for questioning, sources told the WSJ.

‘The detentions are about cleaning the ranks of those who it is believed can’t be trusted anymore,’ one told the paper.

The 56-year-old is believed to be close to Wagner chief Prigozhin, who has praised him in public as Russia’s most competent military commander.

‘Surovikin is a legendary person, he was born to faithfully serve the Motherland,’ Prigozhin said of Surovikin in October, 2022.

Surovikin has disappeared from public view since Wagner’s short-lived mutiny sent shock waves across Russia last month.

He was last seen when he urged the Wagner chief to call off his men in a highly unusual video appeal. Unshaven and scowling, he urged Prigozhin to stop.

The Kremlin has dismissed reports of his detention but uncertainty surrounding the general’s fate persists.

This week Andrei Kartapolov, the head of the defence affairs committee in the Russian parliament’s lower house, said that Surovikin is ‘resting now, he is not available at the moment.’

Major General Ivan Popov, pictured, claimed he had been relieved of his duties for telling the truth to higher-ups

An explosion erupts from an apartment building in Mairupol, Ukraine, after a Russian army tank fired on it in March 2022

It is believed the Kremlin is looking for signs of disloyalty to President Vladimir Putin, pictured, after the Wagner uprising on June 23

The list of those believed to have been detained also includes Mikhail Mizintsev, the former deputy defence minister who joined Wagner Group in April.

One other senior officer, Major General Ivan Popov – who is in charge of the 58th Army fighting in southern Ukraine – claimed he had been relieved of duty after telling the truth to officials. 

Popov, whose troops lie a focal point in the Ukrainian counteroffensive, said in an audio statement to his troops released late on Wednesday that he was dismissed after a meeting with the top military brass.

He said the military leadership was angered by his frank talk about the challenges faced by his forces, particularly the shortage of radars tracking enemy artillery, which resulted in massive Russian casualties.

‘The top officers apparently saw me as a source of threat and rapidly issued an order to get rid of me, which was signed by the defence minister in just one day,’ he said.

‘The Ukrainian military couldn’t penetrate our army’s defences, but the top commander hit us in the back, treacherously and cowardly beheading the army at this most difficult moment.’

READ MORE HERE: The secret Ukrainian tank unit hidden deep within a forest near the Russian border who Zelensky dubs the Iron Brigade 

Popov, who uses the call name Spartacus, addressed his troops as ‘my gladiators’ in the audio message released by retired general Andrei Gurulev, who commanded the 58th Army in the past and currently serves as a legislator.

The 58th Army consists of several divisions and smaller units.

The 48-year-old, who has risen from a platoon commander to lead a large group of forces, has encouraged his soldiers to come directly to him with any problems – an easygoing approach that contrasted sharply with a stiff formal style of command common for the Russian military.

Russian military bloggers say he is widely known for doing his best to avoid unnecessary losses – unlike many other commanders who were eager to sacrifice their soldiers to report successes.

‘I faced a difficult situation with the top leadership when I had to either keep silent and act like a coward, saying what they wanted to hear, or call things by their names,’ Popov said.

‘I didn’t have the right to lie for the sake of you and our fallen comrades.’

Russian military bloggers said that Popov’s remarks, in which he also spoke about the need to rotate his troops, who have been fighting to repel a Ukrainian counteroffensive since early June, angered general staff chief General Valery Gerasimov, who promptly ordered his dismissal.

Gerasimov was shown meeting with military officers in a video released by the Defence Ministry on Monday, the first time he had been seen since last month’s abortive rebellion by Prigozhin, who demanded his ousting.

Sergei Markov, a pro-Kremlin political analyst, noted that Popov’s statement echoed criticism of the top brass by Prigozhin.

However, he added that the general’s statement was not a rebellion, but instead a call for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s help.

‘Such public disputes at the top of the Russian army isn’t a show of force,’ he said.

During the revolt that lasted less than 24 hours, mercenaries from Prigozhin’s Wagner Group quickly swept through the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and captured the military headquarters there without firing a shot before driving to within about 200 kilometres (125 miles) of Moscow.

Prigozhin called his mercenaries back to their camps after striking a deal to end the rebellion in exchange for an amnesty for him and his mercenaries and permission to move to Belarus.

The rebellion represented the biggest threat to Putin in his more than two decades in power and badly dented his authority, even though Prigozhin said that the uprising was not aimed against the president but intended to force the ousting of Gen Gerasimov and defence minister Sergei Shoigu, whose handling of the action in Ukraine he has criticised.

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