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Home World Russia Detains Igor Girkin, a Critic of Putin’s War Effort in Ukraine: What to Know

Russia Detains Igor Girkin, a Critic of Putin’s War Effort in Ukraine: What to Know

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Russian investigators detained a key nationalist critic of the country’s war effort in Ukraine on Friday, suggesting last month’s brief uprising by Wagner mercenaries has further reduced tolerance for any dissent, even among supporters of Moscow’s invasion.

Igor Gilkin, also known as Strelkov, was detained in his apartment by investigators for his involvement in extremist activities, his wife Miroslava said. post With the Telegram messaging app. Russian state news agency RIA Novosti confirmed Gherkin’s arrest, citing his lawyer.

Gherkin, a popular nationalist blogger, has stepped up his criticism of Russia’s military leadership and the way it manages the war in Ukraine. He advocated greater mobilization of Russian society and economy to support the war effort and the purge of those who opposed aggression.

In recent days, he has escalated his criticism, launching personal attacks on President Vladimir V. Putin, calling him “a nothing man who ‘threw garbage in the eyes’ of the majority of his people.”

“This despicable mediocre regime cannot survive another six years in this country,” Gherkin wrote. telegram post On Tuesday, he mentioned Russia’s upcoming presidential elections.

A Russian Army veteran and former intelligence officer, Gherkin helped Russia illegally annex Crimea in 2014 before leading pro-Russian separatist militias in eastern Ukraine. His ruthless discipline earned him a reputation as a decisive commander.

In May 2014, he was appointed Minister of Defense of the Donetsk People’s Republic, a separatist group claiming territory in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. He was sacked months after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, killing all 298 people on board.

Last November, a Dutch court found Gherkin and two others guilty of murder in connection with the downing of the plane. Gherkin has denied responsibility.

Since 2014, Mr. Gherkin’s messianic views have been widely seen as too extreme and have been gradually sidelined. Last year’s full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine brought him back into the spotlight, making him one of the most popular commentators on the war.

Following in the footsteps of Wagner mercenary group leader Evgeny V. Prigozhin, Gherkin has stepped up his criticism of the Russian military leadership. He ridiculed Defense Minister Sergei K. Shoigu as a “plywood marshal,” but was also critical of Mr. Prigozhin’s attempt to challenge Mr. Putin’s power base with an uprising at the end of June.

Russian authorities earlier this month raided the Patriotic Culture Center in St. Petersburg, where Gherkin was scheduled to give a lecture. It was an unusual move against a staunch supporter of the Ukraine war and signaled a step up in Russia’s efforts to crack down on influential ultranationalists after Wagner’s uprising.

Tatyana Stanovaya, a non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the aborted uprising had increased the powers of the Russian defense ministry and had been “itching to arrest” Gherkin for years.

“This is one of the consequences of Mr. Prigozhin’s uprising,” Stanovaya said in a Telegram post after the announcement of Gherkin’s arrest.

“The military has more political opportunities to repress opponents in public,” she said. “I didn’t expect it to be on a large scale. The most radical people could be persecuted, so the rest will be more cautious.”

Gherkin is the most high-profile critic of the Russian military’s war effort, but he wasn’t the only nationalist to be indicted this week. Retired Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov of the Russian Military Intelligence Service has been charged with undermining the military’s credibility, according to Russian news outlets.

To date, the charge of discrediting the military has been used primarily against left-wing war critics. Kvachkov, 74, Quote Kommersant newspaper said the accusations were probably based on criticisms he had published about the Kremlin’s military operations while calling for all-out war against Ukraine as part of a hard-line group of mostly veterans.

On Friday, a group of Gherkin supporters said: post His Telegram channel said his detention would undermine “public confidence in law enforcement” and would have “extremely negative consequences for the stability of the country”.

But Putin has shown a firm stance on the side of the military leadership. The Russian president said at a meeting on Friday: meeting Security Council members claimed the military had acted “professional” in managing the fighting in Ukraine.

Neil Mcfarker contributed to the report.

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