Russia: Igor Kirkin, an influential nationalist and former separatist leader in Ukraine, was arrested for “extremism”.

One of his last messages, published on Tuesday, appeared to attack President Vladimir Putin without naming him. He said the country had been ruled by a “cynic” for 23 years and Russia would not support “six more years of this coward in power”. On Friday, his lawyer Aleksandrey Molokov told AFP that Igor Girkin was arrested by police in the morning.

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In the late afternoon, he appeared in a glass cage reserved for prisoners at a Moscow court, motionless and with his arms outstretched for long minutes, AFP journalists noted. Outside the court, a few dozen demonstrators gathered in his support, according to the same source.

The Russian security services (FSB) have requested that he be placed in pre-trial detention, a judge said during the hearing, as quoted by public news agency TASS. On its website, Meshchansky Court in Moscow, Mr. Kirkin is accused of introducing “public calls to commit radical acts” on the Internet, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

A message posted on his official Telegram account on Friday afternoon indicated that he had been arrested at his home in Moscow.

Convicted in the Netherlands

Since the resignation of Evguéni Prigojine, head of the Wagner Group, another harsh critic of the Russian civil service, experts continue to push for possible purges within the military and the suppression of the last critical voices, especially military or nationalist bloggers who can attack the authorities in Russia.

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In Telegram, political scientist Tatiana Stanovaya said on Friday that Mr. Kirkin said “a long time ago” he crossed “all possible red lines” in his criticism of the Kremlin and the military. “His arrest is certainly one of the interests of the Russian Defense Ministry. It was one of the consequences of Prigozhin’s rebellion: the military had more opportunities to suppress its enemies in public,” he said.

Igor Girkin, 52, made a name for himself in the spring of 2014 when he became one of the most media-friendly and most influential military leaders of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

A former colonel of the Russian intelligence services, the FSB, he organized the first armed militia, ruled the separatist stronghold of Sloviansk with an iron fist, and later occupied the post of defense minister of the Donetsk Republic.

In August 2014, he announced his resignation under mysterious circumstances, before returning to Russia, losing all influence until the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which allowed him to return to grace.

In the telegram, he harshly criticized the manner in which the actions of Russian troops were carried out and predicted the need for a general mobilization, which Moscow would refuse under penalty of Russian “defeat”.

However, he distanced himself from the Wagner Group’s mutiny, condemning it and criticizing Russian security services for not expecting it.

In mid-November 2022, Dutch courts sentenced him to life in prison for murder and complicity in the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, which killed 298 people.

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