The main players in last weekend’s armed rebellion in Russia

The main players in last weekend’s armed rebellion by Russian mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin:

Yevgeny Prigozhin

Prigozhin, 62, owes his position and fortune to ties to President Vladimir Putin. The former convict turned St Petersburg restaurateur has been dubbed “Putin’s boss” for the Kremlin’s lucrative catering contracts. He expanded into other areas and founded the Wagner Group – a private military contractor active in Syria and several African countries.

The Kremlin relied on Wagner to help build up its forces in Ukraine after the regular army suffered humiliating setbacks there. Wagner led attacks on the eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut and captured it after a long and bloody battle, during which Prigozhin complained about the lack of support from the Ministry of Defense .

Prigozhin launched his rebellion after the Defense Ministry demanded that all private contractors come under its authority by July 1, a move that would see him lose control of Wagner. He declared a “march of justice” to oust Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Chief of the General Staff General Valery Gerasimov.


The 68-year-old defense minister is the longest-serving member of Putin’s cabinet. He began his government career under Russia’s first president, Boris Yeltsin, serving as Minister for Emergency Situations since 1994.

After becoming defense minister in 2012, Shoigu presided over the strengthening of military arsenals and the increase in the number of voluntary contract soldiers. He helped organize Russia’s military intervention in Syria that bolstered President Bashar Assad’s regime and the illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.

Following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, Shoigu was criticized for military setbacks, including a failed attempt to capture Kiev early on and a chaotic retreat from large areas to the east and south amid a counterattack. – Ukrainian offensive. Some commentators also criticized him for failing to contain the armed rebellion early enough last weekend.


A career soldier, Gerasimov, 67, became Russia’s chief of staff in 2012. He began his military service as a tank platoon commander in 1977, steadily rising through the Soviet and then Russian ranks.

He was praised for building the capabilities of the armed forces and overseeing the deployment of more mobile and combat-ready forces. Some Russian military bloggers blamed Gerasimov for blunders in Ukraine, but Putin in January put him directly in charge of all forces there.

Since last weekend’s rebellion, Gerasimov has not been seen in public.


Surovikin, 56, who has long-standing ties to Prigozhin, has been dubbed “General Armageddon” by Western media for his brutal tactics leading Russian forces in Syria.

In Ukraine, he is credited with strengthening Russian defenses after large areas withdrew last fall amid a swift counter-offensive from kyiv. As Prigozhin attacked key military leaders, he repeatedly praised Surovikin and suggested appointing him to replace Gerasimov.

Surovikin has not been seen since the rebellion began when he posted a video calling for an end to it, and is believed to be in custody.


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