The Russian spy chief responsible for the Salisbury poisonings has been tipped to take over command of the Wagner Group following Yevgeny Prigozhin’s death in a plane crash.
Prigozhin, who launched a mutiny against Putin in June, was among the 10 passengers onboard the aircraft that went down in a ball of flames on Wednesday evening.
There has since been speculation as to who will take over the warlord’s position as leader of the mercenary group.
Major General Andrey Averyanov, who is head of the Covert Operations Unit in the GRU, was seen at last month’s Russia-Africa summit introducing himself to African leaders. It is now suspected that he will take over as head of the Wagner Network in Africa.
Conservative chair of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Alicia Kearns said she suspects General Averyanov may become leader, adding: ‘Putin cannot afford to lose his access to Africa’s natural resources, because their wealth is enabling him to survive sanctions and fund his illegal invasion of Ukraine,’ she told the i.
Russian spy chief Major General Andrey Averyanov (pictured in July), who is responsible for the Salisbury poisonings, has been tipped to take over command of the Wagner Group
Prigozhin died among the 10 passengers onboard the aircraft that went down in a ball of flames on Wednesday evening
Emily Ferris, of the Royal United Services Institute, said that Putin will have probably ‘learnt his lesson’ that those with ‘dangerous ambitions’ like Prigozhin are a ‘wildcard’.
‘Any new [Wagner] leader would likely be someone handpicked by the Kremlin,’ she told the BBC.
Sources on Telegram claimed that this move is part of a plan by the Kremlin to quash Prigozhin’s influences in Africa and instead replace them with a private company controlled by General Andrey Averyanov’s GRU.
This GRU Unit 29155 carries out foreign operations ordered by Putin and has been linked to many assassinations, including the Salisbury poisonings in March 2018.
Wiltshire was rocked when Kremlin spies allegedly attempted to murder former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal, 68, in Salisbury.
Both he and his then 33-year-old daughter Yulia were rushed to hospital in critical condition after coming into contact with Novichok – a deadly nerve agent concocted by Soviet scientists during the Cold War.
44-year-old Dawn Sturgess (left) was killed after being poisoned by Novichok, which was on perfume bottled gifted to her by her partner Charlie Rowley, 45 (right)
Military personnel wearing protective suits during investigations into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal on March 11, 2018 in Salisbury
What is the GRU?
The General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, often called the GRU, was founded during Russia’s civil war in 1992.
Today, it uses a combination of covert special-forces operations, spying, cyber attacks and internet trolls to destabilise its enemies.
It has its roots in the intelligence-gathering agency that bolstered Trotsky’s Bolshevik Red Army.
The GRU sits apart from the SVR, the external spying service, and the domestic FSB), which were created when the KGB was split in 1991.
The agency is based in a headquarters nicknamed The Aquarium on an airbase near Moscow.
It deploys six times as many agents in foreign countries as the SVR.
Agents often have a military background such as Sergei Skripal, who was recruited after serving in the Soviet army.
They survived the suspected attempted murder, but four months later, in the same county, 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess was killed.
She and her partner Charlie Rowley fell ill after handling the fake Nina Ricci perfume bottle used by the Moscow hitmen in their initial botched assassination of the Skripals.
Mr Rowley, who has battled psychological scars as well as fading eyesight, found the perfume bottle in a charity shop bin before giving it to his then girlfriend as a gift.
The pair were admitted to hospital within hours, and tragically Ms Sturgess died on July 8.
It is believed the Russian state ordered the attack on Skripal – who was jailed in Russia for spying in MI6 – on March 4 2018.
The suspected assassins – Russian intelligence officers Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin – were caught on CCTV as they travelled from Moscow to the Wiltshire cathedral city.
A third suspect, senior Russian agent Denis Sergeev, was believed to be the on-the-ground commander. All three fled back to Russia after their failed murder attempt.
It took almost exactly a year for Salisbury to finally be declared clear of all traces of the deadly nerve agent. Police say it could have killed thousands.
It is alleged that General Averyanov’s unit was also ordered by Putin in 2015 to stage a coup in Montenegro, which failed, according to intelligence sources who also blame the unit for a campaign to destabilise Moldova and the poisoning of Bulgarian arms dealer Emilian Gebrev in 2015.
I am Rakesh Sharma, I associated with Elite News as an Editor, since 2021. I take care of all the news operations like content, budget, hiring and policy making.