US officials speaking to The New York Times said Wednesday that a senior Russian general knew Yevgeny Prigozhin was planning an uprising, a claim dismissed by the Kremlin.
The US officials claimed that intelligence showed Gen. Sergei Surovikin, commander of Russian Aerospace Forces and deputy commander of Russia war effort in Ukraine, had knowledge of Prigozhin’s plans. The officials said they were trying to figure out if Surovikin helped Prigozhin.
It’s possible Surovikin and other Russian military officials knew Prigozhin was plotting something due to his frequent tirades against the Russian military establishment, but it doesn’t mean they were involved. Surovikin issued an appeal to Prigozhin calling for an end to the rebellion after it started.
When asked about the Times report, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “I think that now there will be a lot of gossip, speculation on this issue [the armed mutiny] and so on. I think this is one of such examples.”
At this point, there’s no indication Surovikin was involved in Prigozhin’s mutiny, although the Times report came amid rumors in Western media that Surovikin was missing. Later on Wednesday, The Moscow Times reported that Surovikin had been arrested, citing sources in the Russian Defense Ministry. But the report has not been confirmed.
The Times report could be an effort by US intelligence to sow division among Russia’s military brass. Last year, US officials told NBC News that the US was making claims about Russia to the public even if they didn’t have the evidence to back it up as part of an information war against Russia.