On July 21, ex-”DPR” ”defense minister” Igor Girkin (also known under the last names Strelkov and Runov) was detained by law enforcement in Moscow on suspicion of inciting extremism. Later that day, Moscow’s Meshchansky District Court remanded Girkin to custody until September 18.
Girkin, a convicted war criminal, was an officer in the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) from 1996 to 2013, and then became a leading figure of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”). By a ruling of the District Court of The Hague, he was confirmed as one of the perpetrators of the missile attack on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 and the murder of 298 people on board, for which he was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment in the Netherlands.
Before his detention, Girkin had been actively commenting on the course of the invasion of Ukraine, criticizing the actions of the Russian military leadership, and a few days ago began blaming Putin for the failure of the so-called “special military operation.”
Back in November 2014, Girkin admitted that it was the actions of his unit that caused the start of the war in Donbas:
“The trigger of the war was, after all, pulled by me. If our detachment had not crossed the border, everything would have ended up like in Kharkiv, like in Odesa. There would have been a few dozen dead, burned, arrested. And that would have been the end of it. The flywheel of the war, which is still going on, was essentially unleashed by our detachment.”
He added that at that time, Ukraine fought the Russian military “on vacation” — in particular during the offensive of the “Donbas militia” on Mariupol:
“Individual militia units were subordinate to [Russian soldiers ‘on vacation’]. Mostly it was the 'vacationers' who were advancing on Mariupol. When they left, both the front line, and [our] opportunities remained shaky.”
Prior to the start of the full-scale invasion on February 24, 2022, Russia’s leadership denied the involvement of Russian servicemen in the Donbas war.
“I make no comment. I can only say that the militia did not shoot down the Boeing.”
Girkin did not deny the involvement of the Russian Armed Forces in the tragedy.
Since the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he has been actively commenting on the actions of the Russian military leadership. On the second day of the war, Girkin wrote in his Telegram channel:
“The general conclusion is this: much has been achieved, but the main tasks are far from being accomplished. The pace of the offensive is falling, the final defeat of the enemy is becoming more distant, and the enemy — with its bet on maximizing the prolongation of the war — will try to take advantage of any miscalculations. Here’s what I recommend: start the partial mobilization already, you idiots!”
Girkin's calls for mobilization in Russia became more and more frequent, and his criticism of the Russian Defense Ministry became increasingly more scathing. On March 3, 2023, he noted:
“Russian troops are bogged down EVERYWHERE.
There is no mobilization. Yesterday the president did not even hint at its possibility. And without mobilization, victory over the so-called ‘ukraine’ is impossible from the word go.”
[Original spelling maintained; Girkin deliberately spelt Ukraine with a lower case letter — The Insider]
Girkin’s constant calls for mobilization made him the focus of countless memes.
Even when Vladimir Putin announced “partial” mobilization across Russia in September last year, Girkin remained dissatisfied. It was only “partial,” Girkin said, adding that it “should have been carried out from the very first days [of the war],” and Russia’s borders should have been not closed, so that men who did not want to fight couldn’t leave the country:
“In any normal (including capitalist) country in History, deserters were persecuted mercilessly. I do not remember a single case when the authorities of any European state during the 1st and 2nd World Wars were so leniently loyal to the escape of able-bodied and capable men from mobilization.
Instead of sending them – and dishonoring them to the fullest – to heavy punitive work at the frontline and in the rear or to engage them in heavy and harmful industries (necessary for the army) – we quietly let them out.... THIS IS SABOTAGE. AND THERE’S NO TWO WAYS ABOUT IT.”
In May 2022, Girkin coined his perhaps most famous phrase about the “failure of the ‘special operation’”:
“The entire so-called civilized world, pushing with elbows, is running to help Ukraine: Australia, New Zealand… Three months ago, there was no talk of Sweden and Finland joining NATO. Now they are not just going to join NATO. Their joining NATO is a matter of days… This has already been decided. [...]
Unfortunately, after all these facts, I must honestly say, if the Kremlin can’t own up to it — the special military operation has completely failed.»
Girkin often referred to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu as a “plywood marshal.” On April 3, 2022, he wrote:
“Military science has been enriched with a new term for labeling a retreat from occupied territory in the face of an undefeated enemy — it’s called the ‘reduction of military activity in such-and-such a direction (in this case, the Kyiv direction).’ The Plywood Marshal has already made his outstanding contribution to military science, having managed to find a replacement for the phrase ‘reduction of the front line,’ which has been obsolete since the Great Patriotic War.”
Back in the summer of 2022, Girkin called for radical measures against the Russian military leadership:
“The failure of the Russian military strategy in Ukraine is obvious.
In this regard, I have three proposals:
1) shoot the entire Politburo;
2) repaint the Kremlin in yellow and blue; [The colours of Ukraine’s flag — The Insider]
3) to start implementing the proven strategy of retreating to Moscow and Stalingrad to freeze the opponents at the approaches.”
Girkin spoke exceptionally negatively about the mercenaries of the Wagner Group, and after their mutiny in late June 2023, he suggested hanging their leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin:
“Please take it as [my] opinion. For example, I do not believe that all Wagner commanders and fighters deserve to be shot. But hanging the ‘Chef’ for mutiny and killing our officers is simply necessary for the preservation of Russia as a state.”
[Prigozhin's lucrative catering contracts with the Kremlin have earned him the nickname “Putin's Chef” — The Insider]
Finally, a few days before his detention, Girkin finally began to openly criticize Putin. On July 18, he called him a “cowardly bum.”
“History does not know the subjunctive. For 23 years, the country has been led by a lowlife who managed to blow smoke in the eyes of a large part of the population. Now he is the last island of legitimacy and stability of the state. To throw him off by illegal means means to ‘successfully complete’ the work of those who put the Unique Advantage on the throne in his time.
The country will not endure six more years in power of this cowardly bum. And the only thing he could do ‘at the end’ useful (so as not to cover his name with eternal disgrace in History, like the Judas-Gorby) [Mikhail Gorbachev — The Insider] is to ensure the transfer of power to someone truly capable and responsible. It is a pity that it will not even occur to him. And if it does — we have already seen his ‘ability to choose companions’ many times…”