Gen. Sergei Surovikin of Russia, a onetime ally of the Wagner chief who hasn’t been seen publicly since a short-lived mutiny last month, is “taking a rest,” one of the country’s top lawmakers said Wednesday, when pressed by a reporter.
“He is unavailable right now,” the lawmaker, Andrei Kartapolov, the head of the Russian Duma’s defense committee, added in a video posted on the Telegram messaging app before hurrying away from the reporter.
General Surovikin, the chief of the Russian Aerospace Forces, was considered to be an ally of Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary company, whose forces mounted the brief insurrection in June aimed at toppling Russia’s military leadership, before standing down in a deal with the Kremlin.
In the days since then, intense speculation has surrounded General Surovikin, who skillfully pulled out Russian forces from Kherson amid Ukraine’s counteroffensive last year and has often been dubbed “General Armageddon” for his ruthless tactics.
The New York Times reported that U.S. officials believe General Surovikin had advance knowledge of the mutiny but do not know whether he participated. In the hours after the rebellion began, the Russian authorities quickly released a video of the general calling on the Wagner fighters to stand down. He hasn’t been seen in public since.
The comments came days after the Russian authorities on Monday released the first footage of the country’s top military officer, Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, since the insurrection.
In the video, General Gerasimov was receiving a report from the Russian Aerospace Forces, which are run by General Surovikin. But the person giving the update in the footage was General Surovikin’s deputy, Col. Gen. Viktor Afzalov.
General Surovkin’s location is just one of the many mysteries that have arisen since the mutiny. Despite a deal announced by the Kremlin, under which Mr. Prigozhin would depart Russia for Belarus and avoid prosecution, the mercenary tycoon appears to remain in Russia.
The Kremlin disclosed earlier this week that Mr. Prigozhin and his top commanders met with President Vladimir V. Putin five days after the mutiny, raising many questions about what sort of deal had been struck with the former insurrectionists.
According to the Kremlin’s spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, during the meeting the fighters pledged their loyalty to Mr. Putin, who in turn discussed “further employment options and further combat uses” for the Wagner fighters. Mr. Peskov did not give any additional details of what was agreed to.
General Surovikin led Russian forces in Syria while Mr. Prigozhin’s Wagner group fought there. When Moscow appointed General Surovikin to lead Russian forces in Ukraine last year, Mr. Prigozhin praised him as the best commander in the Russian military.
But in January, Mr. Putin transferred command of Ukraine operations to General Gerasimov, handing the reins to someone Mr. Prigozhin regularly pilloried as an incompetent paper-pusher.
Mr. Prigozhin said his revolt was aimed at getting rid of General Gerasimov and his counterpart, Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu. Mr. Shoigu has made many appearances in public in the days since the uprising, in what has been interpreted as a sign of Mr. Putin’s endorsement.
The questions about General Surovikin’s whereabouts came as another incident roiled the ranks of the Russian military.
A former Russian submarine commander, Stanislav Rzhitsky, who had been serving as the deputy director of Krasnodar’s mobilization office, was found gunned down in the southern Russian city early this week.
On Tuesday, the day after the body was found, Ukrainian military intelligence said on its official Telegram account that Rzhitsky had commanded a submarine that was involved in missile attacks on Ukraine.