Chaos Reigns as 28 Top Russian Commanders Are Sacked or Disappeared After Prigozhin's Revolt but He Lives Large in St. Petersburg

(AP Photo/Misha Japaridze, Pool, File)

At least 13 senior Russian officers were arrested, and 15 more were suspended from duty or cashiered in the wake of the mutiny-cum-coup-d’etat led by Wagner Group PMC honcho Yevgeny Prigozhin on June 23-24. Among those whose fate is unknown is General Sergei Surovikin, former commander of Russia’s Aerospace Forces and the ground commander for Putin’s War in Ukraine.

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“The detentions are about cleaning the ranks of those who are believed can’t be trusted anymore,” one said.

Neither the Kremlin nor Russia’s Defense Ministry responded to requests for comment. Andrei Kartapolov, head of the Russian parliament’s defense committee, said in a video circulating on Russian social media this week that Surovikin was resting and “not available right now.”

Surovikin’s deputy, Col. Gen. Andrey Yudin, and the deputy head of military intelligence, Lt. Gen. Vladimir Alexeyev, also were detained but later released. They have been suspended from duty, their movements have been restricted and they are under observation, one of the people said.

Among other figures detained is former Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, who previously served as deputy defense minister and joined Prigozhin’s Wagner Group private military company in late April.

See all of RedState’s coverage of the coup attempt at Russia Faces Either a Military Mutiny or Coup D’Etat From Wagner PMC Boss Prigozhin, Fighting Against Leadership Underway in Russia: Wagner Group Seizes Buildings in Rostov, Battles Allegedly Erupt in VoronezhPutin Surfaces With Speech on the Coup Attempt, Prigozhin Responds, and Has Anyone Seen Victoria Nuland? and Russian Coup Update: It Ends With a Whimper as Prigozhin Goes Into Exile but Will Anything Ever Be the Same?

There remain a lot of unanswered questions about this revolt. It was obviously perceived as very real by the participants. Six Russian helicopters and one fixed-wing airborne command center were shot down. As many as 39 Russian servicemembers were killed. Ukraine intelligence confirms the contemporaneous reporting that Wagner Group fighters penetrated a nuclear weapons storage facility, Voronezh-45, and tried to take the weapons but were stopped by the passive security systems sealing the bunkers.

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Even though Putin had ordered the arrest of Prigozhin and his senior commanders, they met five days after the mutiny ended.

The meeting was first reported by French newspaper Liberation, which said Prigozhin had met Putin and the head of the National Guard, Viktor Zolotov, and SVR Foreign Intelligence boss Sergei Naryshkin.

The meeting, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, was held on June 29, five days after the aborted mutiny, which is widely regarded to have posed the most serious challenge to Putin since he came to power on the last day of 1999.

Peskov told reporters that Putin had invited 35 people to the meeting, including Prigozhin and Wagner unit commanders, and that the meeting had lasted three hours.

Prigozhin lives openly in St. Petersburg instead of in exile in Belarus. The money and property confiscated from Prigozhin has been returned.

While I’m not sure what this means, I think it is safe to say that none of it is helping a Russian command hierarchy that feels under-resourced for its mission in Ukraine, and has a chasm developing between field commanders and those managing the war. When the commander of Russia’s 58th Combined Arms Army, that has been doing the brunt of the fighting in the critical Zaporizhzhia region, Major General Ivan Popov, complained about units not being permitted to rotate out of the line for rest, he was sacked. The juxtaposition of the men who led what looked like an attempted coup, and killed Russian soldiers and aviators in the process, avoiding punishment and being granted a private meeting with Vladimir Putin with a general getting canned for speaking up for his troops can’t go unnoticed in even such a primitive army as Russia’s.

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At a time when the future direction of the war may be decided, Russian troops and combat commanders need to know they can trust their leadership. The aftermath of Prigozhin’s revolt tells them just the opposite.

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