One commander-in-chief has been missing since the rebellion. Another was killed in an airstrike in Ukraine. And a third former commander was shot dead while jogging in what may have been an organized hit.
The ranks of the Russian military have continued to be plagued by instability in the days following a short-lived mutiny by Wagner mercenaries three weeks ago, as pressures from Moscow’s nearly 17-month war reverberate through the armed forces.
On Wednesday, a mystery deepened over the fate of General Sergei Surovikin, the country’s former commander-in-chief in Ukraine, who was dubbed “General Armageddon” for his ruthless tactics, and who has not been seen since the uprising.
One of the country’s top lawmakers said, when pressed by a reporter, that the general was “resting.”
“He is unavailable now,” the lawmaker, Andrei Kartapolov, the head of the defense committee of the Russian Duma, added in a video posted on the Telegram messaging app before rushing away from the reporter.
General Surovikin, was considered to be an ally of Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary company, whose forces mounted the brief rebellion in late June aimed at overthrowing the military leadership of Russia, before withdrawing in agreement with the Kremlin.
The New York Times reported that US officials believe General Surovikin had prior knowledge of the uprising but do not know if he participated. In the hours after the uprising began, the Russian authorities quickly released a video of the general calling on the Wagner fighters to stand down.
The lawmaker’s cryptic comment about General Surovikin came two days after Russian authorities released the first footage of the country’s top military officer, General Valery V. Gerasimov, since the uprising.
In the video, General Gerasimov received a report from the Russian Aerospace Forces, which is directed by General Surovikin. But the person who gave the update in the footage was General Surovikin’s deputy, General Colonel Viktor Afzalov.
General Surovikin’s whereabouts is just one of the many mysteries that have arisen since the uprising. Despite an agreement announced by the Kremlin, according to which Mr. Prigozhin would leave Russia for Belarus and avoid prosecution, the mercenary tycoon appears to have remained in Russia.
The Kremlin disclosed earlier this week that Mr. Prigozhin and his top commanders met with President Vladimir V. Putin five days after the uprising, raising many questions about what kind of deal was struck with the former rebels.
Russia, meanwhile, suffered another blow to its top military ranks. Lieutenant General Oleg Tsokov, the deputy commander of Russia’s Southern Military District, was killed in Ukraine during a missile attack on the occupied city of Berdiansk on Monday night, marking one of the highest-level losses for Russia during the war, Ukrainian. authorities announced.
A Russian lawmaker and retired general, Andrei Gurulyov, confirmed Tsokov’s death in an appearance on state television on Wednesday, saying he “died heroically”. The death recalled the early days of the war, when Ukrainian officials said they had killed about 12 generals on the front lines.
Russian authorities also arrested a Ukrainian man on Wednesday on suspicion of shooting dead a former Russian submarine commander, Lt. Gen. Stanislav Rytsky, earlier this week in the southern city of Krasnodar, where he served as deputy director of the city’s mobilization office. .
Russian news media reported that General Rytsky, who posted his running routes publicly on the exercise service Strava, was shot dead while jogging in a Krasnodar park.
On Tuesday, the day after the body was found, Ukrainian military intelligence said on its official Telegram account that General Rytsky commanded a submarine that was involved in missile attacks against Ukraine. Friends and relatives, however, told Russian news outlets that he had left active military service before the February 2022 invasion.
The state news agency RIA Novosti, citing an anonymous source in Russian police, reported that the man arrested on Wednesday admitted under questioning to being recruited by Ukrainian intelligence to carry out the killing.
General Rytskyi’s name was entered into the Myrotvorets online database, which posts photos, social media accounts and phone numbers of people considered to have committed crimes against Ukraine.
A red stamp was added above his photo on the database reading, “Liquidated.”