Russian President Vladimir Putin has fired General Sergei Surovikin as head of the country’s air force.
Rumors about this began to circulate a week ago, but journalist Alexei Venediktov said on his Telegram channel that Surovikin, whom Putin entrusted with the invasion of Ukraine, has already left by official decree.
But who is Sergei Surovikin?
The general, who was entrusted with leading the troops into battle a few months ago, has not been seen in public since the Wagner group’s short-lived rebellion against the Kremlin in June.
Since the mutiny, Russian and foreign news reports have said that General Surovikin was being investigated for possible collaboration with Yevgeny Prigozhin to oust Putin.
The ferocious commander, nicknamed “General Armageddon” by the Russian press, is known for his aggressive tactics in the Syrian conflict.
He is a military veteran who served in the Soviet Union’s war with Afghanistan during the 1980s.
The 55-year-old is also remembered for ordering troops to open fire on pro-democracy protesters in Moscow in 1991, when three people were killed during the last days of the Soviet Union.
He led Russian forces during the 2017 Syrian War, where he is accused of complicity in the indiscriminate bombing of opposition fighters and overseeing chemical weapons attacks that allowed Bashar al-Assad’s government to regain control of much of the country.
During Prigozhin’s armed uprising, he called on Wagner’s fighters to return to base and obey Vladimir Putin, but his statement made the Kremlin suspicious of what General Surovikin knew.
A New York Times report, based on a US intelligence briefing, said on Tuesday that he had prior knowledge of the coup and that Russian authorities are investigating whether he was an accomplice in the coup.
Some Russian media have reported that General Surovikin has since been arrested, but this has not been verified by the West.