Russia Detains Former Separatist Ukraine Commander

Russian army veteran and ex-FSB officer Igor Girkin has been detained, his wife and the RBC business dailys sources said Friday. 

Girkin, who helped Moscow annex Crimea in 2014 and then organized pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine, was detained by law enforcement officers around 11:30 a.m. Moscow time, his wife Miroslava Reginskaya said on his Telegram channel.

According to the RBC business daily, the detention came after a complaint from a former member of the Wagner mercenary outfit, which Girkin had criticized in the past.

Reginskaya, who cited unnamed sources, said her husband has been accused of violating article 282 of Russia’s Criminal Code, “incitement to hatred or enmity, as well as humiliation of human dignity.” The maximum punishment for the offense is six years in prison.

Girkin’s lawyer Alexander Molokhov also told the BRIEF Telegram channel that “the case was initiated under Article 282.”

In a separate interview with RTVI TV channel, Molokhov said his client’s whereabouts were unknown.

Girkin has been a hawkish pro-war voice since the invasion of Ukraine last year, regularly criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Defense Ministry for not doing enough to achieve victory.

His arrest comes three days after he called on Putin to step down.

“The country will not survive another six years of this cowardly mediocrity in power,” Girkin wrote to his more than 800,000 subscribers on the Telegram messaging app Tuesday.

According to Russian political expert Tatiana Stanovaya, Girkin’s arrest “undeniably serves the interests” of Russia’s Defense Ministry.

“This is a moment many within the siloviki have eagerly awaited. Strelkov had overstepped all conceivable boundaries a long time ago, sparking the desire among security forces — from the FSB to military chiefs — to apprehend him,” Stanovaya wrote in a Telegram post.

“It’s unlikely that there will be massive repressions against ‘angry patriots,’ but the most vehement dissenters may face prosecution, serving as a cautionary tale for others,” she added.

Girkin was sentenced to life in prison in absentia by a court in The Hague in November 2022 for the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing 298 people.