Russian authorities arrested nationalist pro-war blogger this week and charged him with extremism just a few days after he called Vladimir Putin a “cowardly bum.”
Igor Girkin, 52, was arrested by Federal Security Service (FSB) agents at his home in Moscow on Friday morning, his wife, Miroslava Reginskaya wrote on Telegram.
“From friends, I managed to find out that my husband was charged under article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (extremism),” she said.
Girkin, who also goes by Igor Strelkov, later appeared stone-faced in court, where prosecutors asked the judge to remand him on a charge with a maximum five-year prison sentence.
As a battlefield commander, Girkin played a key role in Russia’s capture of Crimea in 2014 – a move now viewed by many as critical foreshadowing of the ongoing war that started in February 2022.
He was convicted of mass murder by a Dutch court for his alleged role in the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 in eastern Ukraine, which resulted in the deaths of 298 people.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Girkin has been a controversial voice on the war.
He is stridently supportive of the brutal invasion, but frequently criticizes Putin and the Russian military for perceived failures and setbacks, CNN noted.
On Tuesday, he went so far as to call the Russian president a “lowlife” in a scathing Telegram post.
“Now [Putin] is the last island of legitimacy and stability of the state,” Girkin wrote.
“But the country will not be able to withstand another six years of this cowardly bum in power.”
Girkin also had words for Putin after the June 24 Wagner mutiny.
“[If Putin] is not ready to take the leadership over the creation of war-ready conditions then he really needs to transfer the powers, but legally, to someone who is capable of such hard work,” he fired off at the time.
In addition to his fiery online posts, Girkin also co-founded the ultra-nationalist Angry Patriots Club in May.
“[Girkin] openly and reasonably criticized the actions of government officials, including the president,” members of the club wrote on Girkin’s Telegram channel on Friday.
“We believe that today’s detention undermines the confidence of the country’s population in law enforcement agencies, that it is a continuation of the dishonest fight against [Girkin] and has extremely negative consequences for the stability of the country in the conditions of the North-Eastern Military District.”
Girkin was allegedly searched and detained following a complaint from a former Wagner employee, the state news agency RBC said.
Tatiana Stanovaya, founder of the R.Politik analysis firm, said that higher-ups in the Kremlin have been gunning for Girkin’s arrest for a long time.
“Strelkov (Girkin) had overstepped all conceivable boundaries a long time ago,” she claimed.
“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.”
With Post wires