Strelkov, Prigozhin and Popov: The Kremlin is neutral

Russia’s nationalist critic of the Kremlin, Igor Girkin, poses behind a glass screen at a court hearing in Moscow on Friday.Yulia Morozova (Reuters)

Russian nationalist politician Retired officer Igor Strelkov (his real name is Gherkin), became the latest voice to be abruptly removed after criticizing the way Russian President Vladimir Putin is handling the war in Ukraine. Girkin was arrested at his home on Friday in Moscow, his wife and his lawyer alerted. In 2014, Strelkov was one of the military leaders of the Kremlin-incited separatist campaigns in Ukraine. A court in the capital decided to keep him in pretrial detention until September 18 after accusing him of calling for extremist actions, using social networking sites for this purpose. If convicted, he could be sentenced to several years in prison.

The activist was also arrested in front of the court building where the case of the nationalist politician is being heard Pavel GubarevAccording to the information service Medusa. Gubarev, who was demonstrating on the street for Strelkov’s release, was one of the first charismatic separatists of the so-called Russian spring Which happened in 2014, when he proclaimed himself a “people’s ruler” in Donetsk, in the Donbass region.

Strelkov was arrested by members of the Federal Security Service (FSB in its Russian acronym), the same body the officer belonged to until 2013. That year he retired with the rank of colonel and embarked on an adventure that led him first to take part in the annexation of Crimea in February 2014, and later to become defense minister The so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (from May to August of the same year).

Strelkov is one of three well-known figures who have fallen out of favor – in various ways – in recent weeks after his conflicts with Russia’s central authorities came to light. The others are Yevgeny Prigozhin, engineer of Wagner’s mercenary army, and Gen Ivan PopovThe commander of the 58th Army of the Russian Armed Forces, who denounced his dismissal for warning of the difficulties faced by Russian forces on the Ukrainian front rather than supporting what the high command wanted to hear. Although it did not bloom Wagner rebelled at the end of June It has become a clear sign of the cracks in Putin’s power.

After his unsuccessful march on Moscow, Prigozhin moved the bulk of his forces to Belarus (to train that country’s army), while part of his fighters joined the Russian Armed Forces and another was demobilized. For his part, General Popov waited for a new destination after his removal from command by order of Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

With their biographies, education and status, Strelkov, Prigozhin and Popov are very different, but they all have one thing in common that they criticized (with different emphasis) the Russian Ministry of Defense for the way this department conducts and organizes the war against Ukraine.

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Strelkov is one of the founders of the Angry Patriots of Russia movement, through which he aspires to strengthen society for the “victory” they expect in Ukraine, but Russian observers attribute to him little influence in current Russian politics. Fond of reenacting historical battles and exploits, a court in The Hague sentenced Strelkov to life in prison for his role in the downing of a Malaysian Boeing with 298 people on board — all dead — flying overhead. The breakaway Donbass region on July 17, 2014.

On July 9, a unit of the Special Intervention Forces (OMON) prevented Strelkov from giving a lecture in the St. Petersburg library, claiming that the building had been blown up. The officer was able to give his lecture (Dedicated to Wagner and Prigozhin) in another place.

Later, Strelkov called Prigozhin “sadist” and “psychopathic, but he” smart “and” with the help of devils. ” In his opinion, the so-called Kremlin cook does not fit into the Russian political framework, but with the consent of the authorities, he managed to avoid responsibility for the destruction of helicopters and planes during the riots on June 24. “What worries me is that he was not punished in any way,” he said, referring to Prigozhin.

Strelkov criticized Turkish President Recep Ok ErdoganWho accused him of breaking his agreement with his colleague Vladimir Putin to allow the leaders of the Ukrainian Azov Battalion, who were exiled to Turkey after the Russian occupation of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, to return to Kiev.

Winning in Ukraine today, Strelkov believes, “there is a slight increase in patriotism; it is not enough for people to save to the last penny to give the army what the Ministry of Defense does not give them and has no intention of giving them.” The soldier calls on the Russians to unite in the name of victory and opposes “compromises” in search of peace.

Strelkov comments on Russian politics and the course of the war against Ukraine, especially on his Telegram channel, and does so with harsh and blunt judgments. While serving as Minister of Defense in the Donetsk People’s Republic (May–August 2014), Strelkov-Girkin clashed on several occasions with local rebel leaders in Donbass for whom he was too tough and hard-line.

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