A series of media reports citing US officials have added fuel to the fire.

Surovikin was sympathetic to the rebellion, US officials told Reuters, though the news agency added that Western intelligence was uncertain whether he had helped in any way. The New York Times previously quoted US officials as saying that Surovikin had «foreknowledge» of Prigozhin’s plans to revolt against Russia’s military leadership.

NBC News has not confirmed the reports, but they only added to questions about whether support from top military figures can explain the apparent lack of armed resistance to the riot.

Dmitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, dismissed the reports about Surovikin as «speculation and gossip.» Peskov declined to answer any questions about Surovikin during his call with reporters on Thursday, referring to the Defense Ministry.

The general, who earned the nickname «General Armageddon» for his brutal tactics, is considered one of Russia’s most effective. He was replaced as Ukraine’s war chief by General Valery Gerasimov, who has also not been seen in public since the rebellion.

Moscow’s Defense Ministry has not mentioned Gerasimov since June 9 and has not said anything publicly about the whereabouts of the two generals despite rampant speculation on Russian social media.

A show of unity in Dagestan

With Russia shaken by the rebellion and its aftermath, the Kremlin seemed determined to show unity.

Footage distributed by Russian state media on Wednesday night showed Putin stretching his arms out to an apparently elated crowd during a scheduled event in the city of Derbent.

A group of people behind a barrier can be heard cheering and reaching out to the Russian leader with their hands and phones, while cameras roll and his guards appear to open a breach in the security cordon for the Russian leader to get closer to the people. .

It’s a remarkable departure for Putin, who has led a largely isolated existence since the Covid-19 pandemic, forcing those around him to go into quarantine for weeks and meet officials at a very long table.

A sudden break with that protocol, which has continued since the peak of the pandemic, suggested a desire to project the idea that it still commands the nation’s adoration as it seeks to resurrect its image as guarantor of Russia’s stability.

The Kremlin regularly hosts carefully staged events for public consumption.