Russian court jails prominent nationalist Igor Girkin, involved in MH17 shooting, for four years over ‘extremism’

Russian court jails prominent nationalist Igor Girkin, involved in MH17 shooting, for four years over ‘extremism’
  • PublishedJanuary 26, 2024

Girkin has accused President Vladimir Putin and the army’s top brass of not pursuing the Ukraine war effectively enough.

His case has been closely watched as an indication of how far the Kremlin will tolerate aggressive criticism of its war effort in Ukraine, something it calls a “special military operation”.

Girkin was remanded in custody in July last year after setting up the “Club of Angry Patriots” to save Russia from what he said was the danger of systemic turmoil due to military failures in Ukraine and jostling in the elite to eventually succeed Putin.

In one of his most outspoken tirades, in a post on July 18 on his official Telegram channel followed by more than 760,000 people, Girkin peppered Putin with personal insults and urged him to pass power “to someone truly capable and responsible”.

A former officer for Russia’s FSB security service and battlefield commander also known as Igor Strelkov, Girkin helped Russia to annex Crimea in 2014 and, soon after, to organise pro-Russian militias who wrested part of eastern Ukraine out of Kyiv’s control — events that started Russia’s war on Ukraine.

A large crowd of people talking to police
Igor Girkin’s supporters gather outside the court in Moscow on Thursday.(Reuters: Maxim Shemetov)

Girkin will be more familiar to Australians for his role in shooting down Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

Girkin was the commander of Russian separatist forces in the area at the time, which dubbed themselves the Donetsk People’s Republic.

Last year, a Dutch court found Girkin and two other men guilty of the murder of 298 people on board the flight, including 38 Australians.

They were tried in absentia.

Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, has publicly criticised those proceedings, although has previously said he feels some responsibility for the deaths.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong has previously called on Russia to hand Girkin and the others over to authorities in the Netherlands, so they can be punished for “their heinous crime”.

“I’ve been on that flight, and so have many Australians, and that these people could decide to down a civilian aircraft … with children on it is beyond words,” she said, in 2022.

The Kremlin criticised those proceedings and verdict in the Netherlands, saying it was unfairly trying to link Russia to the attack.


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