The Russian general has been arrested for alleged links to Prigozhin after the military uprising against the Kremlin

Sergei Surovikin, the first victim of Putin's purge?

AP/PAVEL GOLOVKIN - Fotografía de archivo, el coronel general Sergei Surovikin, comandante de las fuerzas rusas en Siria, en una sesión informativa en el Ministerio de Defensa ruso en Moscú, Rusia, el viernes 9 de junio de 2019
AP/PAVEL GOLOVKIN - File photo, Col. Gen. Sergei Surovikin, commander of Russian forces in Syria, at a briefing at the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 9, 2019

Moscow activates all its police machinery. The Federal Security Service (FSB) has closed Yevgeny Prigozhin's criminal case for armed rebellion, but Vladimir Putin's purge of the Russian army has only just begun. Sergei Surovikin, the man who was in charge of the military invasion of Ukraine until January, has become the first general to be arrested by the Kremlin, according to The Moscow Times. At the moment, no one knows where the general is, but his daughter claims that nothing has happened to him and that he is "at his place of work". 

The news of the arrest came as a surprise to the entire army. Surovikin is one of the most influential and respected officers in the country. Nicknamed "butcher of Syria" and "Armageddon", he has been responsible for directing Russian military operations in Syria since 2017 and Russian military actions in Ukraine until January this year. But the general also has his shadows. 

SPUTNIK/ALEXEI DRUZHININ -  El presidente ruso Vladimir Putin y el coronel general Sergei Surovikin, comandante de las fuerzas rusas en Siria, asisten a una ceremonia de premiación estatal para el personal militar que sirvió en Siria, en el Kremlin en Moscú, Rusia, el 28 de diciembre de 2017
SPUTNIK/ALEXEI DRUZHININ - File photo. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Colonel General Sergei Surovikin, commander of Russian forces in Syria, attend a state award ceremony for military personnel who served in Syria, at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, 28 December 2017

According to Russian sources, Surovikin reportedly facilitated Prigozhin's access to classified information on the Russian military's operations, and was allegedly aware of Wagner's revolt, according to US intelligence cited by The New York Times. "Speculation and conjecture" for Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.  

In any case, had he been in the loop he would not have been so critical of the Wagner chief's decisions: "We have fought together, we have taken risks, we have won together. We are of the same blood, we are warriors. I ask you to stop. The enemy is just waiting for the situation to get worse in our country", he said after the events of 24 June.  

Nor is the opposition of several Russian army generals a secret. Prigozhin and Surovikin have coincided in their criticism of Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and his successor as Chief of General Staff, Valeri Gerasimov. These are common sympathies that the Kremlin cannot allow if it is to control those who question Russia's national security or strategic interests. Putin's struggle in the wake of Wagner's rebellion, the biggest internal crisis in his 23 years in power.

SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV -  El presidente ruso, Vladimir Putin, otorga al general Sergei Surovikin, comandante de las fuerzas rusas en Ucrania, la Orden de San Jorge, Tercera Clase, en la sede del Distrito Militar del Sur en Rostov-on- Don, Rusia 31 de diciembre de 2022
SPUTNIK/MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV - File photo. Russian President Vladimir Putin awards General Sergei Surovikin, commander of Russian forces in Ukraine, with the Order of St. George, Third Class, at the headquarters of the Southern Military District in Rostov-on-Don, Russia 31 December 2022

The second victim of the purge could be Chief of General Staff Valeri Gerasimov, who has not appeared in public since the armed rebellion in Prigozhin on 24 June. 

Mass bath to calm internal tension 

A clean slate. Putin's intentions are to undo the wake left by Wagner's 25,000 soldiers who followed Prigozhin in the attempt to take Moscow. The mercenary chief's final thoughts on "no bloodshed" and an agreement in extremis to go into exile in Belarus stopped the military uprising, but the fear of the Moscow regime resembling the idea of weakness remains. Putin wants to project order.

Several Russian state media outlets have distributed footage taken in Dagestan showing the Russian president appearing in front of a euphoric crowd. In the videos taken, guards open the security cordon so that attendees can take pictures with Putin, the new rock star who extends his police arms with extreme urgency.