HomeTop StoriesPutin arrests war-loving Russian nationalist as purge unfolds

Putin arrests war-loving Russian nationalist as purge unfolds

Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

Hardline Russian nationalist Igor Girkin was arrested Friday morning and charged with extremism, indicating that President Putin has finally lost his temper with his vociferous criticism of Russia’s hesitant handling of the war in Ukraine.

In a message posted to his Telegram account, Girkin’s wife said representatives of the Russian Commission of Inquiry arrived at their home around 11:30 am. “I was not home at the time. Soon, according to the janitor, they took my husband under their arms and took him in an unknown direction,” Miroslava Reginskaya wrote.

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She added that she had learned from friends that he was “charged under Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (extremism)”.

“I don’t know about my husband’s whereabouts, he hasn’t been in touch,” she added.

A law enforcement source confirmed to the state news agency TASS that Girkin had indeed been detained in Moscow. “Investigative actions are being carried out on him at the moment,” said the source.

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Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, is a former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer and Russian Army veteran who became an ardent pro-war military blogger who supported the invasion of Ukraine. He was also personally involved in military operations in Ukraine, as he was a key figure in Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and organizing Moscow-backed militias in eastern Ukraine.

Last year, he was also convicted of murder in absentia by a Dutch court for his role in the downing of flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014, despite his denials of involvement.

Since Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Girkin has been scathingly critical of Moscow’s handling of the war. He has repeatedly called for a general mobilization of the Russian population to prevent the invasion from ending in failure, and has even called for the execution of Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu by firing squad. Like other ultranationalists, Girkin also supported the idea of ​​using tactical nuclear weapons.

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But perhaps his greatest misstep was the launch of a new pro-war nationalist party in Russia in March. His so-called “Club of Angry Patriots” said it saw Putin as the only real guarantor of stability in Russia, but Girkin believed that continued failures on the battlefield in Ukraine could lead to the collapse of the Russian state.

In an interview with Reuters in May, Girkin said a “systemic crisis is brewing in Russia”. “We are on the verge of very serious internal political changes of a catastrophic nature,” he said. “All sane forces must create organizations that will participate in the political struggle that is inevitable – and has already begun.”

When asked specifically whether he considered it naive that he could launch his new opposition party without the consent of the Kremlin, Girkin replied: “I really hope you wouldn’t call me a naive person.” He added that removing Putin from power would “precipitate the collapse of Russia”.

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The details of the allegations of extremism against him are not yet clear. But RBC reports that the investigation stems from a former Wagner Group employee, Yevgeny Prigozhin’s mercenary. As with the Russian Defense Ministry, Girkin was also highly critical of Prigozhin’s command.

The Wagner boss retaliated by suggesting that Girkin surrendered a town in eastern Ukraine in 2014 in exchange for a bribe from Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov. Girkin later accused Wagner militants of carrying out the 2015 assassination of a pro-Russian commander in Ukraine’s occupied Luhansk region.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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