Sept 15 (Reuters) – Russian general Sergei Surovikin is in Algeria as part of a Defence Ministry delegation, in an apparent return to official duties after coming under suspicion in connection with a June mutiny by the Wagner mercenary force, Kommersant newspaper reported on Friday, citing a source close to the general.
The newspaper published photographs of Surovikin wearing a khaki suit without military insignia that it said had been taken in Algeria, a major buyer of Russian weapons.
Surovikin, dubbed “General Armageddon” for his use of carpet bombing tactics during Russia’s intervention in Syria’s civil war, briefly headed Russia’s campaign in Ukraine last year before being demoted in January.
He became popular among hardline critics of the Russian military establishment including Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was killed in a plane crash last month.
As Wagner mercenaries marched on Moscow in late June, he appeared in a video looking distressed and holding an assault rifle on his lap, urging them to turn back.
The general, who was praised publicly by Prigozhin, disappeared from public view after the mutiny. The New York Times reported that U.S. intelligence believed he had known in advance about the revolt, the biggest challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s authority in his 24 years in power.
Various media outlets reported that Surovikin had fallen out of favour with the Kremlin and that he was being investigated for possible complicity. The state news agency RIA said last month that he had been removed as head of the air force and his deputy Viktor Afzalov had assumed the job on a temporary basis.
The Kremlin has refused to comment on his status.
Unconfirmed reports this month said Surovikin had been appointed head of the air defence committee of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which groups Russia and eight other former Soviet states.
Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War said this would be “consistent with previous patterns of the Russian military leadership shifting disgraced and ineffective commanders to peripheral positions far removed from Ukraine without discharging them from the Russian military entirely”.
Reporting by Felix Light; Editing by Kevin Liffey
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