Russia Ukraine conflict

Russia army chief Gerasimov shown in a video, first time since failed June 24 mutiny

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Russia’s top general, Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasi-mov, was shown ordering subordinates to destroy Ukrainian mis-sile sites in a video released on Monday, his first appearance in public since the failed June 24 mutiny.

The footage indicates that President Vladimir Putin has for now kept his two most powerful military men, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and Gerasimov, in their posts despite demands from mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin to sack them over alleged incompetence in running military operations in Ukraine.

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Putin’s spokesman said on Monday that the Russian leader had held Kremlin talks with Prigozhin and his commanders on June 29 to discuss the mutiny and their performance at the front along with their future employment options. He made no mention of Shoigu or Gerasimov.

Sitting in a military command center on a white leather seat chairing a meeting with top generals, Gerasimov, 67, was shown asking for and then listening to a report by Viktor Afzalov, deputy in the aerospace forces to General Sergei Surovikin. Surovikin has not been since in public since the mutiny.

The defense ministry said the footage showed Gerasimov at a meeting on Sunday. It described him as chief of the general staff of Russia’s armed forces and commander of Moscow’s forces in Ukraine, the positions he held before the mutiny.

Gerasimov was told that a Ukrainian missile attack on Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014, and on the Rostov and Kaluga regions had been thwarted on Sunday, and was shown ordering how Russia should respond.

“We note that the aerospace forces have coped with the task (of shooting down the missiles),” Gerasimov said.

He then asked the aerospace forces and GRU military intelligence to identify “the storage sites and launch positions of the missiles and other enemy strike weapons to plan a preemptive strike.”

Putin said at the time the mutiny by Wagner mercenaries was treason, compared it to the turmoil in the run-up to the 1917 Russian Revolution, and praised loyal troops for averting what he said could have been a civil war.

Since a deal was brokered to defuse the mutiny, Putin and the Kremlin have sought to project a business-as-usual image, with the president chairing a range of meetings, visiting crowds in Dagestan and even hosting a young girl for a guided tour of the Kremlin.

Russian generals

The survival of Shoigu and Gerasimov means that Prigozhin’s attempt to topple Putin’s top military brass has failed, at least for now.

For months before the mutiny, Prigozhin had been openly insulting them, using a variety of crude expletives and prison slang that shocked top Russian officials, but which was left unanswered in public by Putin, Shoigu and Gerasimov.

Prigozhin said Putin’s top military men would be forced to eat the guts of fallen soldiers in hell for what he said was the incompetent and treasonous way he alleged they were running what Moscow calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine.

In the week leading up to the mutiny, Prigozhin stepped up his attacks on Shoigu, dissecting the Russian justification for the war and accusing the defense ministry of lying to Putin about both the causes and conduct of the war.

Prigozhin said his mutiny was aimed at settling scores with Shoigu and Gerasimov, not at seizing power or challenging Putin.

In the footage released on Monday, the faces of most of the participants in the video call were blurred out, though Surovikin’s deputy, Afzalov, was shown.

The whereabouts of Surovikin, who before the rebellion was deputy commander of Russia’s forces in Ukraine and who was repeatedly praised by Prigozhin, were unclear.

Nicknamed “General Armageddon” by the Russian media for his reputed ruthlessness, Surovikin is formally commander in chief of the aerospace forces.

Colonel-General Sergei Rudskoi and Colonel-General Alexei Kim, two of Gerasimov’s subordinates, were shown in the same video.

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