Igor Girkin has long criticized the Russian defense ministry’s handling of the war, but in recent days his comments have turned into direct criticism of President Putin, according to British intelligence. This shows, he adds, that “the taboo surrounding criticism of the Putin regime has significantly weakened.” The American Institute for War Studies wrote in an analysis that Girkin’s arrest was “a sign of a change in the balance of power in the factions towards the Kremlin.”
Girkin is an extreme nationalist, was a leader of the Donbas “separatists” and is wanted by Ukrainian intelligence for war crimes in Ukraine. He is also a military blogger who criticizes the Kremlin. In 2022, he was sentenced in absentia by a Dutch court to life imprisonment for shooting down a Malaysia Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine in July 2014. 298 people died then. Girkin is wanted on an international arrest warrant and sanctioned.
On Friday, he was arrested in Moscow by the Russian security services and charged with inciting extremism.
British Ministry of Defence: The taboo around open criticism of the Putin regime has significantly weakened
As indicated in the daily intelligence update published by the British Ministry of Defence, Girkin has long been a critic of the Russian Ministry of Defense’s handling of the war, but in recent days his comments have turned into direct criticism of President Putin and his authority.
It added that the arrest is likely to infuriate other members of the military blogging community – and some in the armed forces – who largely see Girkin as an astute military analyst and patriot. He played an important role in the Russian Civil War Donbass since 2014 and spent months on the front lines in 2022.
“Although Girkin is not an ally of the Wagner Group, he was probably prepared to cross the borders of public criticism only in the context of the failed rebellion of the head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin in June 2023. The taboo around open criticism of the Putin regime has significantly weakened,” it wrote.
ISW: a manifestation of a change in the balance of power in the factions towards the Kremlin
The American Institute for War Studies wrote in its analysis that Girkin’s detention “may be a public manifestation of a change in the balance of power within the Kremlin factions.” According to ISW, this may be a change of forces to the detriment of the Federal Security Service.
Russian insiders say Girkin’s detention is part of the Russian presidential administration’s efforts to crack down on influential extreme Russian nationalists following the armed rebellion of Wagner Group financer Yevgeny Prigozhin on June 24. The institute stresses that even before Girkin’s arrest, criminal charges were brought against other extreme nationalists linked to Russian special forces, which may indicate that certain Russian officials are targeting radicals who regularly leak confidential information about the Kremlin.
Main photo source: PAP/EPA/ALEXANDER ZEMLIANICHENKO/POOL