HomeTop StoriesIgor Girkin: Russian blogger who called Putin a 'lowlife' arrested

Igor Girkin: Russian blogger who called Putin a ‘lowlife’ arrested


A prominent Russian pro-war blogger who has criticized President Vladimir Putin and his army’s mishaps in Ukraine was arrested Friday.

Igor Girkin, a former KGB officer who helped Russia conquer Crimea and was convicted of mass murder for his role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in eastern Ukraine, was taken from his home in Moscow by security agents on Friday and charged with “extremist activities,” according to state media and a post on his Telegram account attributed to his wife.

Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, is one of Russia’s most well-known “milbloggers,” a group of war correspondents who support the invasion but have become increasingly critical of the army’s faltering operations in Ukraine. Girkin had taken his criticism to another level in recent months, criticizing the Russian state and even Putin himself.

He co-founded an ultra-nationalist political group called the Angry Patriots Club this spring, telling Reuters that Russia was “on the cusp of very serious internal political changes of a catastrophic nature.”

The day after the end of Wagner’s brief uprising, on June 25, he said that if Putin “isn’t ready to take charge of creating war readiness” in Russia, “he really needs to hand over the powers, but legally, to someone capable of such hard work.”

But perhaps the final straw for Putin came on Tuesday, when Girkin called the president a “lowlife” and a “cowardly bum” in a sizzling post on his Telegram channel.

“For 23 years the country was led by a lowlife who managed to ‘blow dust into the eyes’ of a significant part of the population. Now he is the last island of legitimacy and stability of the state,” the post read. “But the country will not withstand another six years of this cowardly bum in power.”

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Miroslava Reginskaya, Girkin’s wife, said in the Telegram statement attributed to her that agents from the Russian Commission of Inquiry arrived at their apartment at 11:30 a.m. local time (4:30 a.m. ET) on Friday and took him “to an unknown direction.”

State news agency Ria Novosti later reported that Girkin had been charged with inciting extremist activity, citing Moscow’s Meshchansky court.

“Strelkov is charged with Part 2 of Article 280 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (public incitement to extremist activities),” the court said, according to Ria. If found guilty, Girkin could be sentenced to up to 5 years in prison.

Another post on Girkin’s Telegram account, attributed to his “associates,” said his arrest on Friday coincided with an attempt to split the Angry Patriots Club over differing opinions about Wagner and his attempted uprising in Russia in June, which represented Putin’s biggest challenge since he came to power more than two decades ago.

Girkin “openly and reasonably criticized the actions of government officials, including the president,” his associates’ statement read. They said confidence in Russia’s “freedom of expression” was under threat and that “processes are underway in our country that indicate that government representatives are deviating from fundamental values”.

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Tatiana Stanovaya, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, said Girkin “long ago crossed all imaginable boundaries,” and that his arrest was a result of the Defense Department reasserting control in the aftermath of the Wagner Rebellion.

“This is a direct result of [Yevgeny] Prigozhin’s mutiny, she said on Twitter, referring to the Wagner boss. “The command of the army now exerts more political influence to destroy its opponents in the public sphere. Mass repression against ‘angry patriots’ is unlikely, but the most vehement dissenters may be prosecuted, which will serve as a cautionary tale to others.”

Girkin is a former colonel in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and served as defense minister in the separatist so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) in eastern Ukraine, territory captured by pro-Russian forces in 2014.

During his time in the DPR, he contributed to the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, a court in the Netherlands ruled. All 298 people on board were killed. The court found Girkin guilty of mass murder last year for his role in the incident and he was sentenced in absentia to life in prison.

According to the court, Girkin took part in the conflicts in Chechnya, Transnistria and Bosnia.

Girkin was remanded in custody until Sept. 18 after his arrest on Friday, after the judge rejected his request to be placed under house arrest due to an apparent heart condition.

The prosecution said Girkin posed a flight risk, citing his connections with law enforcement agencies, Russian media also reported. In his statement to the court, the prominent blogger argued that he could not flee abroad and called the claims “downright ridiculous”.

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His detention comes just three days after Russian state media TASS reported that retired Russian Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov, an associate of Girkin, was facing criminal charges for “discrediting the Russian armed forces”.

While TASS did not specify which of Kvachkov’s comments prompted the indictment, Kvachkov has also openly criticized Putin, describing his government as “virtually non-existent” in on-camera comments at an Angry Patriots event following the Wagner uprising last month.

Ukrainian Defense Intelligence later claimed Girkin’s arrest signals that growing disputes could arise within the Kremlin.

“The problem is not with Girkin himself, who has never acted as an independent figure before. Nor have many other military correspondents or military bloggers, or members of Girkin’s group. These are not independent figures,” a representative of Ukrainian defense intelligence, Andriі Yusov, told Ukrainian broadcasters on Friday.

Yusov went on to say that it was “paradoxical” that Girkin had been arrested, but Wagner founder Prigozhin had not.

“Prigozhin marched to Moscow and shot down planes and helicopters, but Girkin is the one who was apprehended,” he said. “This is a specific feature of Putin’s regime. “

“All this suggests that the members of the Kremlin towers are already entering an active phase of internal confrontation,” he added, without providing any evidence.

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