Russian President Vladimir Putin may be purging his military leadership following a thwarted coup attempt by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mercenary force, the Wagner Group. Since the cessation of the rebellion, two of Russia’s senior military figures have vanished from the public eye.
Chief of General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, who commands Russia’s invasion force in Ukraine and reportedly holds one of Russia’s “nuclear briefcases”, has not been seen since Prigozhin’s aborted mutiny. Reuters reported that Gerasimov has not been mentioned in any defense ministry press release since June 9th, hinting at his possible disappearance or even arrest.
In addition, Deputy Commander Gen. Sergei Surovikin, also known as “General Armageddon,” is rumored to have been arrested. This news follows reports that he had foreknowledge of Prigozhin’s planned insurrection. “Surovikin was arrested Sunday, the day after Wagner mercenary troops led by Prigozhin engaged in a short-lived mutiny,” reported military blogger Vladimir Romanov.
Rybar, an influential Telegram channel run by a former Russian defense ministry press officer, indicated that a purge might be happening within the Russian Armed Forces. This followed reports that the Wagner Group had faced little opposition from Russian troops in the initial hours of the rebellion. “The armed insurgency by the Wagner private military company has become a pretext for a massive purge in the ranks of the Russian Armed Forces,” Rybar reported.
Rebekah Koffler, a former U.S. defense intelligence officer, echoed this sentiment: “Putin is orchestrating a purge to capitalize on the coup, which in my intelligence assessment was a false flag operation,” she told Fox News Digital. She believes that Putin is further consolidating his power, presenting himself as Russia’s singular strong leader able to suppress rebellion and maintain order.
Gerasimov and Surovikin’s absence during recent public appearances have underscored these uncertainties. When Putin expressed his gratitude to the army for preventing civil war, both were conspicuously missing. Prigozhin had previously accused Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, a known Putin ally who was present at the event, of corruption and incompetence regarding the war in Ukraine.
Gerasimov and Surovikin’s uncertain status has added a layer of concern due to their significant roles in Russia’s military. “General Armageddon is arrested and Gen. Gerasimov, of the holders of Putin’s three nuclear footballs is missing — a threatening situation,” warned Koffler. Putin’s machinations, she suggests, are a stark message to the world about the potential danger of instability in Russia. “This is what Putin wants the world to know,” Koffler said.