A prominent Russian hard-line nationalist was detained by Russian investigators on Friday, July 21, 2023.
The detention of the 52-year-old Igor Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, was reported by his wife. She disclosed that he apparently faces charges of extremism.
Girkin’s lawyer, Alexander Molokhov confirmed his detention to the official Russian news agencies, but did not give further details.
In a message posted on Girkin’s official Telegram account, which has over 875,000 subscribers, his wife, Miroslava Reginskaya, noted, “Today, at about 11:30 am [08:30 GMT], representatives of the Investigative Committee came to our house. I was not at home. Soon, according to the concierge, they took my husband out by his arms and in an unknown direction.”
The Club of Angry Patriots, a recently created hard-line group Girkin belonged to, issued a statement objecting his detention as a “provocation” that “undermines the population’s trust in law enforcement organs” and “carries extremely negative consequences for the country’s stability.”
Girkin, a retired security officer who led Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014, has argued that a total mobilization is needed for Russia to achieve victory. He recently criticized Russian President, Vladimir Putin as a “nonentity” and a “cowardly mediocrity.”
His detention comes nearly a month after a short-lived mutiny led by mercenary Chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin. It signals that the Kremlin has toughened its approach with aggressive critics after the Wagner mutiny.
Girkin lambasted Russia’s military leaders for incompetence, but he also denounced Wagner’s Chief and described his action as treason and a major threat to the Russian state.
Amid the fighting in Ukraine, he ridiculed Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, as a “plywood marshal,” an apparent reference to Shoigu’s hobby of woodcutting.
Girkin has long spoken about Putin with disrespect, accusing him of incompetence and kowtowing to Western interests, and he toughened his criticism after the start of Moscow’s action in Ukraine.
He predicted that Russia would face imminent defeat because of Putin’s reluctance to declare a massive mobilization and put the country on full military footing.
Quite recently, Girkin said, “A lot of empty talk, the minimum of action and the utter lack of responsibility for failures — that is Putin’s style of late.”
“A nonentity that has managed to cheat a large part of the population has been at the country’s helm for 23 years,” he added.
Girkin served in the Russian military during the Chechen separatist wars and later joined the country’s top domestic security agency, the Federal Security Service where he reached the rank of colonel.
After he retired from service, he took part in Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and then led fighters in eastern Ukraine during the first months of a Moscow-backed separatist rebellion there in 2014.
In 2022, he was handed a life sentence in absentia by a Dutch court for his alleged role in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, with the loss of 298 passengers and crew.
A Direct Outcome Of Prigozhin’s Mutiny
Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, opined that Wagner’s rebellion has given the military brass an opportunity to go after its critics.
“Strelkov had overstepped all conceivable boundaries a long time ago, sparking the desire among security forces — from the FSB to military chiefs — to apprehend him,” she tweeted.
“This is a direct outcome of Prigozhin’s mutiny: the army’s command now wields greater political leverage to quash its opponents in the public sphere.”Tatiana Stanovaya
Stanovaya predicted that while “it’s unlikely that there will be massive repressions against ‘angry patriots,’ … the most vehement dissenters may face prosecution, serving as a cautionary tale for others.”