Russian investigators have detained prominent Russian nationalist Igor Girkin, who had publicly accused President Vladimir Putin and the army’s top brass of not prosecuting the war in Ukraine harshly or effectively enough.
Friday’s move, reported by his wife, his lawyer and the RBC news outlet, suggested the authorities have wearied of his criticism of what they call Russia’s “special military operation”.
The arrest followed an abortive mutiny last month led by another outspoken critic, Yevgeny Prigozhin, boss of the Wagner mercenary force, who is still free, but has sharply curtailed his own verbal attacks.
Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, helped Russia annex Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and then organise pro-Russian militias who took control of part of eastern Ukraine from Kyiv.
The 52-year-old former military commander of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, was also handed a life sentence in absentia by a Dutch court in 2022 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.
The former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer had been regarded by many as untouchable due to his background and ties to the authorities, but had become more outspoken in recent months.
Girkin announced in May that he and others had set up the “Club of Angry Patriots”, to enter politics to save Russia from what he said was the danger of turmoil due to military failures in Ukraine.
Asked at the time if he was naive to think he could launch a political movement without the assent of the Kremlin, he said, “I hope you would not call me a naive person.”
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