Vladimir Putin’s goons are ‘interrogating’ a Russian officer known as ‘General Armageddon’ in Moscow’s notorious Lefortovo prison after America claimed he had supported Yevgeny Prigozhin’s failed Wagner mutiny, Russian press is reporting.
General Sergei Surovikin was possibly under interrogation over a plot to oust the Kmrelin’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu and had advance knowledge of the armed revolt which threatened Putin‘s regime at the weekend, reports say.
Surovikin, 56, is the second-in-command of the Russian armed forces. He has known links to ‘coup leader’ Prigozhin, the Wagner mercenary army chief whose soldiers marched on Moscow on Saturday, coming within 120 miles of the capital.
US officials briefed on American intelligence said a top Russian general had advance knowledge of Prigozhin’s plans to rebel against Shoigu and chief of the armed forces General Valery Gerasimov over failings in the war against Ukraine, The New York Times reported on Wednesday.
The Moscow Times later reported that sources within the Defence Department said Surovikin had been arrested following the Wagner mutiny. If he was indeed involved, the feared general could face a treason charge and up to 20 years jail.
‘Apparently he [Surovikin] chose the side [of Prigozhin during the rebellion] and they grabbed him by the balls,’ a source told the Moscow Times.
There have been claims that Surovikin had advance knowledge of the weekend armed revolt which threatened Vladimir Putin’s regime
General Sergei Surovikin (left with Putin in 2022) is possibly under interrogation over a plot to oust the Kmrelin’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu and had advance knowledge of the armed revolt which threatened Putin ‘s regime at the weekend, reports say
Surovkin has known links to ‘coup leader’ Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Wagner mercenary army chief (pictured) whose forces came within 120 miles of Moscow on Saturday
However, the source said the details of the situation are not widely discussed internally, while the department is yet to comment officially.
The suspicion is that the general in question is Surovikin, a commander known for his brutality and who has historically been described as one of the more ‘Wagner-friendly’ Russian military leaders.
He commanded Russia’s Eastern Military District in Syria from 2013, before going on to command the Russian Ground Forces in Syria from 2017. During his time there, he is credited with turning the tide of the Syrian Civil War in favour of dictator Bashar al-Assad and is alleged to have been responsible for attacks on civilian targets.
However, commentators have cautioned that the US has an interest in undermining Surovikin, who is considered to be highly competent and ruthless, with the leaks causing more chaos for the Kremlin in the midst of the war in Ukraine.
The well-connected pro-war Rybar Telegram channel has revealed that Surovikin ‘has not been seen since Saturday’.
The military-linked channel stated: ‘The whereabouts of ‘General Armageddon’ is not known for certain. ‘There is a version that he is under interrogation.’
The channel said that while Gerasimov formally retains his title he is ‘no longer involved in decisions of issues in the [war].’
Separately, respected journalist Alexei Venediktov said Surovikin has not been in contact with his family for three days. The general’s guards are also incommunicado.
Military blogger Vladimir Romanov said Surovikin was detained on June 25 (the day after Prigozhin called off his ‘march for justice’ and is held in notorious FSB pre-trial jail Lefortovo where Putin has detained multiple foes who have crossed him.
US journalist for the Wall Street Journal Evan Gershkovich is currently being held there after being detained by Russia in March, accused of being a spy.
It also currently houses former US marine veteran Paul Whelan who was handed a 16-year jail sentence in 2020 after being accused of spying.
Another version is that Surovikin – while not formally detained – has been ordered to account for his actions before and during the Prigozhin revolt.
For this he has been isolated and ‘interviewed’.
Thanks to accounts from past inmates, we have a good idea of what conditions Surovikin is likely being held under.
Built in the late 1800s, the yellow-walled prison lies on the eastern edge of Moscow. It was built in a letter K, with former inmates saying it was designed to instil isolation, fear and despair in order the break their spirits.
It was used for mass executions during Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin’s Great purge between 1936 and 1938, and was used by the NKVD secret police for torture, violent interrogations and executions to solidify Stalin’s control.
Built in the late 1800s, the yellow-walled Lefortovo prison (pictured) lies on the eastern edge of Moscow. It was built in a letter K, with former inmates saying it was designed to instil isolation, fear and despair in order the break their spirits
All sound inside the prison is muted with old, worn-down carpets so prisoners cannot even hear the footsteps of other inmates, or guards as they approach.
Valentin Moiseyev, a Russian diplomat who spent three-and-a-half years in the prison from the late 90s, said the carpets ‘are not for beauty or for pleasing the eyes of prisoners but so that steps do not break the utter crypt-like silence, one that is oppressive and makes your ears ring.’
Its small cells, meanwhile, are believed to contain beds made from iron bars with a paper thin mattress and a downed pillow, a sink and a toilet bowl.
Phones calls are banned and only visits by lawyers are allowed, while detainees only leave their cells for walks, interrogations or medical checkups. They are only allowed to take a shower once a week.
When inmates are taken out of their cells, the guards go to lengths to ensure they see no other prisoners and as few guards as possible to enhance the isolation.
During the Soviet era, a new wing was built on to the side of the building to house KGB officers. This was later occupied by the FSB, the KGB’s successor – meaning the feared secret service has direct access to prisoners.
Zoya Svetova, who observes prison conditions with the Public Monitoring Commission of Moscow, a non-government organization, said officials want to psychologically break foreign prisoners.
‘This period is some sort of humiliating time meant to ‘cook’ them,’ she previously told the Daily Beast. ‘People feel naked, left without any private belongings.
‘No other prison in Moscow has more hostile treatment during the quarantine period than Lefortovo.’
Initial reports said Surovikin’s loyal sidekick Deputy Colonel-General Andrei Yudin had been arrested as well. He denied this saying: ‘I am on vacation, at home.’
But he could not explain Surovikin’s whereabouts.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov sought to dismiss reports Surovikin had advance knowledge of the armed revolt as ‘speculation’.
Earlier, Rybar said the armed mutiny could lead to ‘large-scale purges in the ranks of the armed forces of the Russian Federation’.
‘Investigators and representatives of the Federal Security Service [FSB] have been working for many days both on the leadership of the military administration bodies and on the commanders of the units.’
Surovikin was put in charge of the Russian war effort in October only to be stripped of responsibility by Putin in January – yet he remained as Gerasimov’s deputy
Coup leader and Wagner mercenary army chief Yevgeny Prigozhin in Rostov-on-Don on Saturday
It is believed that following Surovikin’s arrest, in command of the special military operation now is Airborne Forces Commander Mikhail Teplinsky, Rybar reported.
Surovikin was put in charge of the Russian war effort in October only to be stripped of responsibility by Putin in January – yet he remained as Gerasimov’s deputy.
Before evidently disappearing Surovikin issued a desperate Saturday call to give up their opposition to the military leadership and return to their bases ‘before it is too late’. He revealed he had been ordered back to Moscow from the frontline.
It now appears this may have been because of suspicions of his knowledge of the ‘coup’ as suspected sympathy for it.
As the threat of a mutiny loomed, Surovikin toted a gun as he warned in a recorded statement: ‘We cannot play into the enemy’s hands during this hard time for our country.
‘Before it is not too late, it is necessary to obey the order of the popularly-elected president of the Russian Federation.’
It is alleged he has not been seen since recording this message.
Rybar stated: ‘The armed mutiny of the Wagner PMC [private military company] has become a pretext for large-scale purges in the ranks of the Russian Armed Forces and a crash test of the ministry’s loyalty.’
Junior ranks are also being purged of those who showed support for Wagner’s uprising against Putin’s commanders, it is claimed.
Meanwhile, a separate report said Putin was too scared to fire his ‘extremely dangerous’ defence minister, fearing him as a direct rival.
The weakened dictator eventually halted the armed revolt at the weekend which specifically targeted Shoigu for his failings in the war.
But VChK-OGPU Telegram channel cited an insider source saying Putin could not agree to revolt leader Prigozhin’s demand to fire the 68-year-old defence minister because of Shoigu’s popularity with senior officials.
‘Shoigu is extremely dangerous in the event of resignation, due to his knowledge, the huge number of people loyal to him in leadership positions, and the presence of levers of influence … in the Kremlin,’ said the channel’s source.
Shoigu has served longer in the Russian government than Putin, and knows where bodies are buried.
He is not like other Putin ministers ‘whose silence and inaction can be bought with money’, said the source.
‘Everything is more serious here. Putin is not ready for such a conflict now.’
When negotiations involving Belarus dictator Alexander Lukashenko and FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov were underway on Saturday to halt the armed revolt, Putin bluntly refused to oust Shoigu.
In the event a deal was hatched to allow Prigozhin to go unpunished into exile even though Putin had declared the Wagner boss was guilty of ‘treason’ and ‘betrayal’.
Fighters of Wagner private mercenary group deployed in a street near the headquarters of the Southern Military District in the city of Rostov-on-Don
Sources also indicate that during Saturday’s unfolding events Putin remained out of touch – even to Lukashenko who was seeking to help him with negotiations.
He only dealt with Bortnikov.
Putin is believed to have fled Moscow for his forest palace at Valdai where he has a bunker.
The new disclosures highlight the deep splits and instability at the pinnacle of 70-year-old Putin’s power structure as he suffers Ukrainian territorial gains in the war.