Ex-Russian commander who shot down Flight MH17 FINALLY imprisoned

Former commander of Russian backed separatist forces Igor Girkin who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 FINALLY imprisoned – but only because he criticised Vladimir Putin

  • Igor Girkin found guilty last year of shooting down MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 
  • All 298 people on board were killed when the Malaysia Airlines flight went down
  • Girkin has been a free man in Russia but has been detained for Putin comments

A former Russian separatist commander who shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 has finally been imprisoned – but only because he criticised President Vladimir Putin.

Igor Girkin, better known by his nom de guerre Igor Strelkov, is a staunch supporter of the invasion of Ukraine but he said this week that Putin should stand down before the presidential elections in March.

‘The country won’t survive another six years with this talentless coward in power,’ the pro-war blogger wrote.

Girkin and three others were found guilty of shooting down Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 on board. 

He was sentenced to life in prison at a court in the Hague last year without attending the trial. Russia, which denies any involvement in the downing of the plane, had refused to extradite Girkin.

Igor Girkin (C), better known by his nom de guerre Igor Strelkov, has been charged with inciting extremist activity

Girkin said this week that Putin (pictured) should stand down before the presidential elections in March.

But almost 10 years after the nationalist was blamed for blowing the Boeing 777 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpar out of the sky, he appeared behind a glass cage in a Moscow courtroom on Friday on charges of ‘public calls for extremism’.

His wife, Mirslava Reginskaya, said that he was detained at their Moscow flat while she was out. 

In footage from court posted by the popular Telegram channel Shot, Girkin stood almost motionless behind the glass with his arms folded, staring straight ahead as he was detained for two months.

The hardline response by Putin comes after the Russian despot survived an attempted coup from warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin and his private Wagner army last month. 

Although both have been critical of Russia’s defence chiefs, Girkin accused Prigozhin of treason. He was detained after a Wagner mercenary informed police about his comments on Putin. 

Girkin, who took part in the 2014 annexation of Crimea, has regularly criticised the conduct of the Ukraine invasion on the messaging app Telegram, where he is followed by around 875,000 people.

He had been regarded by many as untouchable due to his history and ties to the authorities, but had become more outspoken in recent months. 

By opening a case against him, observers said authorities were sending a signal that any criticism – even from supporters of the military operation in Ukraine – are off-limits in the aftermath of the Wagner mercenary group’s short-lived rebellion.

Girkin (pictured in 2014) was one of the key figures in the pro-Kremlin insurgency when fighting broke out in eastern Ukraine in 2014

A Moscow court ordered Girkin to be placed in detention pending a trial on charges of inciting extremist activity that could land him in prison for five years.

‘Justice in our country, once again, has not triumphed’ his lawyer Alexander Molokhov told reporters outside the Meshchansky Court in Moscow.

Molokhov said the defence would appeal the court’s decision and explained the case against his client was based on two social media posts in which Girkin discussed Russian-annexed Crimea and army supplies.

Girkin’s arrest appears to be the beginning of a crackdown from Moscow against ultra-nationalists who have been allowed to be critical of Russia’s defence chiefs.

On Tuesday, retired colonel Vladimir Kvachkov was charged with discrediting the army after accusing Putin of sending Russian troops to their deaths in Ukraine and replacing them with Muslim migrants from central Asia.

Girkin and three others were found guilty of shooting down Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, killing all 298 on board. Pictured: People walk amongst the debris of the crash site

Several dozen supporters of Girkin gathered around the court on Friday, with at least one detained.

‘The repressive machine has gone into full gear, this is an excuse to knock him out from public work,’ said Pavel Gubarev, head of the ‘Club of Angry Patriots’ that Girkin co-founded – and that Kvachkov is also a member of.

Shortly before being detained, Gubarev said Girkin’s supporters would fight using all legal means.

‘Igor Ivanovich Strelkov isn’t just not an extremist: he is a patriot who has gone through five wars in the interests of Russia.’

A former FSB colonel, Girkin was one of the key figures in the pro-Kremlin insurgency when fighting broke out in eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Girkin ruled the then-rebel stronghold of Sloviansk with an iron fist, with executions for petty theft reportedly carried out under his rule.

Girkin's detention comes around a month after the attempted mutiny Wagner, from which the Kremlin emerged visibly weakened

But he was squeezed out of the separatist leadership later that year under mysterious circumstances and returned to Russia, where he lost all influence, until the offensive began.

Girkin came back to the spotlight after the beginning of the offensive, becoming one of the most vocal critics of Putin and of the way in which Russia’s offensive in Ukraine has been conducted.

In response to Girkin urging Putin to hand over power to a successor, independent political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya said Girkin had ‘long crossed all possible red lines’.

But his detention comes around a month after the attempted mutiny Wagner, from which the Kremlin emerged visibly weakened.

Prigozhin was the most strident voice for those inside Russia criticising failures in Russia’s campaign and the strategies used by Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and army chief Valery Gerasimov.

The Kremlin crackdown comes after Yevgeny Prigozhin (pictured) and his Wagner army failed in an attempted coup

Girkin denounced Prigozhin’s mutiny but kept on criticising the incompetence of Russia’s conventional military commanders.

The case against Girkin ‘is one of the consequences of Prigozhin’s rebellion: the army received more political opportunities to suppress its opponents in the public space,’ Stanovaya said.

She did not expect mass arrests but said: ‘The most radical ones may be prosecuted, so that the rest will be more careful.’

Criticism of Russia’s assault on Ukraine has been outlawed and all key liberal opposition figures are either behind bars or in exile.

‘The authorities decided that uncontrolled ultra-patriots are no less dangerous than the extra-systemic liberal opposition,’ said political analyst Ilya Gerashchenkov.

Article source: https://airlines.einnews.com/article/645757113/gXB4uAUpPOX_xFu2?ref=rss&ecode=vaZAu9rk30b8KC5H

Leave a Reply