Hardline Russian nationalist Igor Girkin was detained Friday morning and charged with extremism, signaling that President Putin has finally lost patience with his vocal criticism of Russia’s treacherous approach to the war in Ukraine.
In a post on a Telegram account, Girkin’s wife said that representatives of the Russian Investigative Committee came to their home around 11:30 a.m. “I was not at home at that time. Soon, according to the concierge, they took my husband under arms and took him away in an unknown direction,” wrote Miroslava Reginskaya.
She added that she learned from friends that “he was charged under Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (extremism).
“I don’t know where my husband is, he hasn’t been in touch,” she said.
A law enforcement source confirmed the TASS state news agency that Girkin was indeed detained in Moscow. “Currently, investigative actions are being taken with him,” the source said.
Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, is a former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer and ex-soldier of the Russian Army who became an ardent pro-war military blogger in support of the invasion of Ukraine. He was also personally involved in military operations in Ukraine itself, being a major figure in Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 and organizing a Moscow-backed militia in eastern Ukraine.
Last year, he was also convicted of murder in absentia by a Dutch court for his role in the victims 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 sharply critical of Moscow’s handling of the war. He repeatedly called for a general mobilization of the Russian population to avoid the invasion ending in failure, and even called for Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu to be executed by firing squad. Like other ultranationalists, Girkin has also supported the idea of using tactical nuclear weapons.
Perhaps his most serious misstep, however, was launching a new pro-war nationalist party in Russia in March. His so-called “Club of Angry Patriots” said he viewed Putin as the only real guarantor of stability in Russia, but Girkin believed that continued battlefield failures in Ukraine could lead to the collapse of the Russian state.
I Reuters interview in May, Girkin said that “a systemic crisis is pressing in Russia.” “We are on the verge of drastic internal political changes,” he said. “Every healthy force needs to create organizations that will take part in the political battle that is inevitable – and has already begun.”
Asked specifically if he thought he was naive that he could launch his new opposition party without the Kremlin’s approval, Girkin replied: “I hope you wouldn’t call me naive.” He also said that removing Putin from power would “cause the collapse of Russia.”
The details of the extremism allegations against him are not yet clear. But RBC reports that the investigation stems from a former employee of the Wagner Group, mercenary force Yevgeny Prigozhin. Like the Russian Ministry of Defense, so was Girkin very critical led by Prigozhin.
The Boss Wagner retaliated at praising that Girkin surrendered a city in eastern Ukraine in 2014 in exchange for bribes from Ukrainian billionaire Rinat Akhmetov. Girkin followed accused Wagner is involved in the 2015 assassination of a pro-Russian commander in the occupied Luhansk region of Ukraine.