I saw Igor Girkin five years ago in a stairwell at a news agency in Moscow.
“Can I interview you. ” I said “NO,” he said firmly and quickly ran off.
I saw him again today. I saw him once more today. No stairs This time, Girkin was in a locked area with police around him in the Moscow City Court.
We were permitted to film him along with other media for just one minute at the end of his trial.
A dog trained to help the police wouldn’t stop barking. Girkin thought it was funny. The verdict is not as much. A few minutes later, he was judged to be guilty of extreme behavior and was given a four-year prison sentence.
He had been convicted before.
In 2022 in The Hague, Girkin was found guilty of killing 298 people on Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, even though he wasn’t there in person.
Russian forces in Ukraine destroyed a Boeing plane in 2014.
Girkin was one of three men who were given a life sentence in prison. He didn’t listen to the judgement.
One year after we first met in the stairwell, I finally talked to Girkin on the phone and asked him about the Hague.
He said he doesn’t believe in the Dutch court’s power for this issue.
“I am a soldier and I don’t think it’s right for a court in another country to punish someone for fighting in a war that wasn’t their own, just because some of the local people were killed. ”
“Do you know who caused the plane to crash. ”
“The rebels didn’t bring down the Boeing plane. ” I have nothing left to say.
“I asked if the Russian soldiers were the ones responsible since it wasn’t the rebels. ”
“That’s all” “Goodbye,” he said and then ended the call.
Now he will be in jail. But not for killing a lot of people at once. Not forever
Who is Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, and why did a Moscow court put him in jail.
He used to work for the Russian security service called the FSB. In 2014, he was an important part of the fighting in Ukraine’s Donbas region. The conflict was planned and directed by Moscow.
He led groups of people who supported Russia in eastern Ukraine.
The court in the Netherlands decided that Russia was in charge of the groups fighting for independence in eastern Ukraine. Also, Girkin was involved in bringing the missile system that shot down flight MH17 into Ukraine.
After Russia invaded Ukraine in 2022, ultranationalist Girkin became a popular blogger who supported the war.
He started to be more and more critical of how the Russian government was fighting the war. He thought they were not putting in enough effort.
He started a group called The Club of Angry Patriots, which believed in strong nationalism.
He had problems when he started to show his anger towards President Vladimir Putin.
People said mean things about the Russian president in public. Last year, Girkin said Putin is “meaningless” and “a cowardly person who is not useful”.
A couple of days after that, he got taken by the police. Now he’s been found guilty in court.
Certainly, a four-year prison punishment is not as severe as other punishments given by Russian courts lately.
Last year, a pro-democracy activist named Vladimir Kara-Murza was given a 25-year prison sentence for being found guilty of treason. He and his supporters say that the case was motivated by politics.
How would the “Angry Patriots” respond to Girkin going to prison. Would they go out on the streets to show their anger.
No, not exactly. A small group of fans got together outside the Moscow City Court and shouted “Freedom to Strelkov. ” but they didn’t sound very hopeful.
“Denis says they are trying a Russian person who loves their country. ” I want our people to wake up and start fighting. I’m sorry, but we don’t see people disagreeing much. “Everyone is staying hidden. ”
Also in the crowd was a retired army colonel named Vladimir Kvachkov who is known for being very patriotic and vocal about his beliefs.
Mr Kvachkov told me that Russia will always be an enemy of the West and said that the United Kingdom will break up. He also said that Girkin is being punished for going against the system.
In the past few years, the government has focused on getting rid of Russian political figures who support democracy and the West.
Girkin’s prison sentence shows that Russia is now cracking down on critics who are extreme patriots.
The mutiny led by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner mercenaries last year might be the cause.
The Putin government overcame the challenge. However, the Kremlin will now be aware of the potential risks from very motivated nationalistic and patriotic people in Russian society.