Putin Launches Kremlin Purge After Coup Attempt

Russian president Vladimir Putin / Getty Images
June 28, 2023

Russian president Vladimir Putin has made personnel changes in the highest ranks of the Russian military following the Wagner Group’s mutiny last week.

Sergei Surovikin, a senior general who had previously supported Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, has not been seen since Saturday morning, when the rebellion began.

The New York Times, citing U.S. officials, reported that Surovikin had prior knowledge of the mutiny, leading some to suspect that he is being interrogated about whether he helped to plan the rebellion. Surovkin, who had previously served as the leader of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine before being demoted in January, was the main point of contact between Wagner and the Kremlin.

Surovikin was last seen telling Wagner fighters to stand down in a video message. Surovikin appeared unhappy as he denounced the mercenaries, leading one official to liken it to a "hostage video," according to the Times.

Russian security forces have also begun "shaking down sympathizers and those who violated their oath," a source close to Prigozhin told the Financial Times.

Putin is, however, rewarding his allies in the wake of the insurrection. Longtime loyalist Viktor Zolotov’s National Guard received heavy artillery and tanks and will play a larger role in the invasion.

Additionally, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and General Valery Gerasimov, who replaced Surovikin as top commander in January, have reportedly seen their influence increase in recent days.