After significant internet rumors emerged Tuesday, Russian state news agency RIA confirmed Wednesday that Gen. Sergei Surovikin has been fired as head of the country's air force. He has been "missing" - or believed under house arrest, since the Wagner mutiny events of June 23-24. He had for months prior overseen Russia's war efforts in Ukraine.
"The ex-Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces of Russia Sergei Surovikin has now been relieved of his post, Colonel General Viktor Afzalov, Chief of the General Staff of the Aerospace Forces, is temporarily acting as Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces," RIA reported based on single unnamed source.
According to NBC, the news first emerged Tuesday after "The Izvestia newspaper, known for its pro-Kremlin view reported what it said was Surovikin resignation from the post, citing its own unnamed sources."
Further based on the same reporting:
Alexei Venediktov, former head of the Ekho Moskvy, a prominent independent radio station that was shut down by authorities within days of the Ukraine invasion was the first to report that Surovikin had been dismissed on Tuesday, but said the general was being "retained by the defense ministry."
The man known as 'General Armageddon' is believed to have come under Kremlin scrutiny as Putin cracked down on the military chain of command over handling of the short-lived rebellion led by Yevgeny Prigozhin. That's when he was effectively 'disappeared' from public view.
In late June American intelligence officials told The New York Times that at the highest ranks of Russia's military command, a key general had foreknowledge that an armed Wagner uprising was coming. In particular, the report claimed had Surovikin advanced awareness of the mutiny plot.
The anonymous US intel officials had taken the claims even further, suggesting potential active plotting and co-conspiracy within the defense ministry. "The officials said they are trying to learn if Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the former top Russian commander in Ukraine, helped plan Mr. Prigozhin’s actions last weekend, which posed the most dramatic threat to President Vladimir V. Putin in his 23 years in power," said the June NYT report.
But some analysts pointed to red flags regarding the claims of US intel officials, as it seemed a coordinated attempt of Washington to sow distrust, paranoia, and further discord in the Kremlin.
⚡️RBC reported that Army General Sergei Surovikin was relieved of his post as Commander-in-Chief of the Aerospace Forces due to a transfer to another job. pic.twitter.com/mHR7GQ0WI7— War Monitor (@WarMonitors) August 22, 2023
Surovikin hasn't been heard from publicly or in any online or official statement since then. His security detail has also not been seen. Given the prior reports of house arrest, his dismissal had been seen as likely or as imminent. He will reportedly be transferred elsewhere within the defense ministry or Russian government, but very little details are known.