A top Russian general who disappeared after a mutiny by the mercenary group Wagner has been removed as head of the country’s space forces, Russian state media reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed sources.
General Sergey Surovykin has spent four decades as part of the Russian military, including a brief stint running Russia’s war effort in Ukraine.
He assumed responsibility for the conflict in October 2022, after a major explosion severely damaged the Kerch Bridge connecting the annexed Crimean peninsula to mainland Russia. Surovikin was removed from that post a few months later.
Wagner has not been seen in public since June, when he released a video pleading with leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to stop his agitation. A Russian lawmaker said in July that Surovikin was “retiring”.
Documents shared with CNN in June suggested Surovikin was a secret VIP member of Wagner. The New York Times in June reported that Surovikhin may have had advanced knowledge of the rebellion, fueling widespread speculation about his role in the rebellion.
Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reported that Sorovikhin had been replaced by one of his deputies, Colonel General Viktor Afsalov, the former chief of the General Staff of the Aerospace Forces.
Surovikhin’s ouster comes a month after another senior general, Ivan Popov, was sacked after Moscow’s Defense Ministry leadership accused him of betraying his troops by providing insufficient support.
Surovikhin’s military career began in the 1980s with service in Afghanistan, and in 2004 he commanded a unit in the Second Chechen War. He was appointed commander of Russia’s space forces in 2017, a post he was reportedly fired from. Wednesday.
As head of the Space Forces, Surovikhin oversaw the Kremlin’s campaign in Syria, when Russian warplanes were accused of causing widespread destruction in rebel-held areas. Although Surovikin was rewarded in Moscow for his service in Syria, Human Rights Watch alleged that Surovikin was responsible for the attacks, which violated the laws of war and killed at least 1,600 civilians.
The ferocity of those attacks earned Surovikhin the nickname “General Armageddon”. One of his former subordinates, Gleb Irisov, told CNN last year that Surovikhin was not wanted because he tried to apply his infantry experience to the Air Force.
“He made a lot of people very angry — they hated him,” Irisov said.
News of Surovikhin’s dismissal was first reported by Alexei Venediktov, a prominent Russian journalist and former head of the now-closed Echo of Moscow radio station.
Venidiktov posted on his Telegram channel on Tuesday that Surovikin had been removed from his post but would continue to serve in another position at the Defense Ministry.
According to sources cited by Russia’s business news agency RBC, Surovikhin was removed from his post because he was transferred to another job and is currently on a short vacation.
Surovikhin’s official biography on the Russian Defense Ministry’s website still lists him as head of the Aerospace Forces.
CNN has reached out to the Russian Defense Ministry for comment.