Sergei Surovikin, Russian air force commander, fired

Sergei Surovikin, Russian air force commander, fired

The Kremlin sacked the head of Russia’s air force weeks after he was last seen in public during an aborted mutiny orchestrated by the chief of the Wagner Group mercenary army, the state-run RIA news agency reported on Wednesday.

Gen. Sergei Surovikin, nicknamed General Armageddon, was replaced by Gen. Viktor Afzalov as interim commander of the aerospace forces.

Gen. Surovikin is the most senior Russian military official to lose his job over the June 23-24 military uprising led by Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin.

Russian media tried to downplay the significance of the firing, saying Gen. Surovikin was merely being transferred to another position and is “currently on a short vacation.”

He was appointed chief of Russia’s air force in October 2017. Prior to that, he commanded Russian troops in Syria. Last October he was appointed head of the Russia military operation in Ukraine until he was replaced three months later by Gen. Valery Gerasimov, chief of the general staff.

While Gen. Prigozhin repeatedly criticized Russia’s Ministry of Defense for its handling of the fighting in Ukraine, he often praised Gen. Surovikin, saying his forces always had sufficient weapons and ammunition when he was head of the operation there.

A number of Russian military bloggers said the news of Gen. Surovikin’s dismissal wasn’t new and will have little impact on the war in Ukraine because the Kremlin removed him from power immediately after Mr. Prigozhin’s rebellion, according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank.