With the reported arrest on Friday of Igor Girkin (aka ‘Strelkov’ or ‘Igor the Terrible’) the career of one of the Russia-Ukraine war’s most infamous, larger-than-life characters may finally have hit a dead end. Girkin, the career-killer with the sensitive face and soulful eyes, has played numerous parts in his time: activist, blogger, FSB colonel, executioner, convicted war criminal and eternal thorn in the side of the Russian Ministry of Defence. A self-professed nationalist, and founder member of the ‘Club of Angry Patriots’, he has consistently lambasted Putin’s ‘special military operation’ for its failures and perceived half-measures, calling repeatedly for martial law and mass-mobilisation to avert a likely defeat.
Now, it seems, his antics have been curtailed. His arrest by ‘representatives of the Investigative Committee’ came at 11:30 on Friday morning, according to a Telegram post reportedly from his wife, Miroslava Reginskaya: ‘I was not at home at that time. Soon, according to the concierge, they took my husband out under arms and took him in an unknown direction… I do not know anything about my husband’s whereabouts and he has not contacted me.’ Girkin now stands accused of ‘inciting extremism’, a conveniently nebulous term that usually just means the Kremlin has taken umbrage and got you in its sights. But for once the expression is apt. If Girkin is not an extremist, the word has no meaning.
To say that over the past 18 months Girkin has shot his mouth off is sheer understatement. Last September he was predicting a total Russian defeat, calling for Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu to be executed by firing squad, and pressing for nuclear strikes ‘to drive 20 million refugees to Europe.’ Three months later, after a spell fighting in Ukraine, he passed on the demoralisation and bewilderment of the Russian troops: ‘Soldiers and officers do not understand: in the name of what, for what, and with what purposes they are fighting.