Igor Girkin, a former FSB colonel who led the pro-Russian rebellion in Donbass in 2014 and served as “defense minister” in the unrecognized Donetsk republic in eastern Ukraine, has been arrested by the Russian police in Moscow.
Girkin is facing charges of "calls to extremist activity," a loosely worded article (#280, part II) in the Russian criminal code that allows security agencies to target opponents of Vladimir Putin's regime.
Despite claiming innocence, Girkin refuses to cooperate with investigators. A court decided to keep him in Lefortovo Penitentiary until September 18, 2023, denying him bail or house arrest, despite his lawyers arguing that Interpol was after him and he had nowhere to flee.
Igor Girkin in the occupied Donetsk, in 2014.
The police acted on a formal complaint from a Wagner fighter named Dmitry Petrovsky, who informed them about Girkin's critical social media posts about the Kremlin leader.
An unyielding yet disrespectful supporter
Igor Girkin, a Russian nationalist whom Ukraine wants to prosecute for terrorism, is a staunch advocate of the war in Ukraine and dreams of restoring imperial Greater Russia. After leading the pro-Moscow uprising and serving as the top military chief in one of the separatist provinces in 2014, Girkin left active military service and became a war blogger. He ran several Telegram channels on war topics, called for a nationwide mobilization to war, and published commentaries on the situation at the front line.
As the Ukrainian army gained the upper hand, his tone grew increasingly bitter. He held Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and General Staff chief Valery Gerasimov responsible for the Russian troops' failures in the Ukrainian campaign, following the footsteps of Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin. Ultimately, he accused President Putin of incompetence.
Three days before his arrest, Girkin boldly referred to Putin as a "nonentity" and called for a coup to remove the "cowardly" leader.
Igor Girkin's post that probably annoyed President Putin.
What’s at stake if Girkin is found guilty?
If the former FSB colonel is convicted, he could face a maximum of five years in jail. However, this would likely be just the beginning of his imprisonment. The Russian repression machine has honed a perpetual practice over the past decade: fabricating new cases or trying for real crimes, adding more years to his detention.
Putin’s vengeful nature
Given Putin's notorious intolerance for disrespect, it's no wonder this description has infuriated the dictator to the core.