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Gen. Surovikin, Russia's former commander in Ukraine, is detained

Gen. Sergei Surovikin (left), the former commander of Russia's military operation in Ukraine, has been detained. He's seen here last December alongside Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Gavriil Grigorov
/
Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images
Gen. Sergei Surovikin (left), the former commander of Russia's military operation in Ukraine, has been detained. He's seen here last December alongside Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

Gen. Sergei Surovikin, a senior commander in Russia's war against Ukraine, has been detained, days after an uprising by mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhinset off widespread speculation about loyalty and schisms within Moscow's leadership.

A U.S. official confirmed Surovikin's detention to NPR's Tom Bowman on Thursday, after a Russian media outlet reported the general had been taken into custody. Few details are known, including Surovikin's precise location.

After Prigozhin's brief mutiny, news emerged that Surovikin knew in advance about the rebellion against Russia's top defense leaders. That intelligence, which appeared to have been based on intercepts, was described to NPR as "highly sensitive."

Surovikin's name surfaced repeatedly as Prigozhin's Wagner Group forces seized Russia's southern regional military headquarters in Rostov-on-Don and sent a military contingent toward Moscow.

The Russian general put out a video in the early hours of Saturday morning, urging Wagner's mercenaries and leaders to abandon their uprising. His name was then mentioned as a possible mediator between Prigozhin and the defense ministry, a role he has previously played.

Surovikin is the commander of Russia's Aerospace Forces. He led the Russian war campaign in Ukraine from October 2022 to January 2023. He previously commanded Russian forces in Syria — another instance where he shared a theater of operations with Prigozhin.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.