Russian court sentences nationalist Girkin to 4 years for 'extremism'
A Moscow court on Thursday convicted prominent Russian nationalist Igor Girkin of inciting extremism and sentenced him to four years in a penal colony. Girkin, who refuted the charge, has criticized President Vladimir Putin and senior military officials for their handling of the war in Ukraine. He had also contemplated running against Putin in a forthcoming presidential election.
Girkin's trial has been a barometer of the Kremlin's tolerance for harsh criticism of its military actions in Ukraine, termed a "special military operation."
Girkin was arrested in July last year after forming the "Club of Angry Patriots." He aimed to rescue Russia from what he perceived as impending systemic chaos due to military setbacks in Ukraine and power struggles within the elite for Putin's succession.
In a July 18 post on his official Telegram channel, followed by over 760,000 people, Girkin unleashed a torrent of personal insults against Putin and called for him to transfer power to someone truly capable and responsible."
A former officer in Russia's FSB security service and a battlefield commander also known as Igor Strelkov, Girkin played a pivotal role in Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014. He subsequently helped organize pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine, seizing control from Kyiv and igniting Russia's conflict in the region.
In 2022, a Dutch court sentenced Girkin in absentia to life imprisonment for his alleged involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, which resulted in the deaths of 298 passengers and crew. Girkin denied any wrongdoing at the time.