Western officials say that Wagner planned to arrest two Russian military leaders in the south of the country, but security officials discovered the plot.
WSJ on June 28 quoted Western intelligence officials as saying that boss Yevgeny Prigozhin tried to arrest Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov when they visited southern Russia. The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) discovered the plot two days before it was scheduled to be carried out, and General Shoigu and General Gerasimov later changed the schedule.
When the plot was revealed, Prigozhin was forced to improvise an alternative plan, sending troops into Rostov-on-Don to control the Russian Southern Military District headquarters and sending thousands of troops to Moscow on June 24. Western intelligence assessed that Prigozhin believed that part of the Russian armed forces would join the rebellion and turn away from their commanders.
According to Western officials, Prigozhin informed several senior Russian military officers, including Sergei Surovikin, who served as commander of Russia’s campaign in Ukraine. It is not clear whether General Surovikin passed this information on to the FSB or how it discovered Prigozhin’s plans.
In Washington, US officials said General Surovikin was “sympathetic to Prigozhin’s goals,” but it was unclear if he supported or helped the rebellion. According to several US officials, “there are indications that some other Russian generals may support Yevgeny Prigozhin’s effort to change the leadership of the Ministry of Defense by force.” They said Prigozhin “would not have organized a rebellion if he had not believed those in power positions supported him.”
After Prigozhin announced on June 23 that thousands of Wagner soldiers under his command would be sent to Rostov province in a “justice operation”, Mr. Surovikin was one of the first two Russian generals to call on the leadership of the private military corporation to consider and stop the rebellion.
“I call on the leaders, commanders and soldiers of the Wagner Corporation to stop. The enemy is just waiting for the political situation in our country to deteriorate,” warned General Surovikin. “We must obey the will and orders of the President of Russia. We must stop the operation, return the troops to the base and assembly point, and solve the problem peacefully under the direction of the President. “.
When asked about information that General Surovikin may have known in advance of the Wagner rebellion, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “there is a lot of speculation and rumors surrounding the event; this is one of the examples of this.”
General Viktor Zolotov, the Russian National Guard commander, confirmed that the authorities were aware of Prigozhin’s intentions before he carried out the plot. “Information about preparations for a rebellion that began between June 22-25 was leaked from Prigozhin’s barracks,” Zolotov told Russian state media on June 27.
During the June 24 rebellion, the Wagner group headed for the capital at a point about 200 km from Moscow. After negotiations brokered by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Prigozhin agreed to withdraw his forces to avoid bloodshed and ordered Wagner units to return to their barracks.
President Lukashenko announced on June 27 that Prigozhin was in Belarus and that the country would benefit from Wagner’s combat experience. Mr. Lukashenko said he would not build barracks for Wagner but agreed to provide accommodation and propose an abandoned military base for them. Belarus also has no intention of letting Wagner open a recruitment center in the country.