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Navalny: Girkin 'illegally detained political prisoner'

by Martin Fornusek and The Kyiv Independent news desk July 25, 2023 4:31 PM 2 min read
Igor "Strelkov" Girkin, a Russian war criminal and a former commander of Russian proxy forces in occupied Donetsk Oblast, photographed in a Moscow court following his arrest on July 21. (Photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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Imprisoned Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny said on July 25 that Igor "Strelkov" Girkin, the recently arrested Russian war criminal, is a "political prisoner" who was "detained illegally."

"As long as (Girkin) remains in custody on these ridiculous and obviously politically motivated charges, he is a political prisoner," Navalny wrote on his Telegram channel.

Navalny, a prominent anti-Kremlin figure sentenced to prison in 2021 in what international organizations called a sham trial, acknowledged that Girkin has been convicted by a Dutch court for the downing of the MH17 airliner.

He also noted that the former commander of Russian proxy forces in Donbas admitted to taking part in hostilities in Ukraine. The downing of MH17 and Girkin's acts in Ukraine should be investigated by Russian authorities and courts should provide a "fair assessment" of the events, Navalny said.

He argued that Girkin was not detained over his past acts in Ukraine, but on false charges of extremism, simply for criticizing Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.

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While conceding that Girkin's criticism of the Kremlin actually calls for more drastic measures in the war against Ukraine, Navalny urged that "law and justice" must be respected regardless of the warlord's views.

"To gloat that Strelkov fell victim to his own power is to publicly support lawlessness," Navalny commented.

Girkin, a former officer of the Federal Security Service (FSB), was arrested by Russian authorities on July 21 on extremism charges.

In April 2014 he organized the seizure of the town of Sloviansk, Donetsk Oblast, initiating Russia's war in the Donbas. Girkin admitted later in an interview that he had "pulled the trigger" of Russia's war.

He proclaimed himself the "defense minister" of Russia's proxy forces in Donetsk Oblast in 2014.

Girkin has also been found guilty by The Hague court of participating in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17, which killed 298 people in 2014.

During the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he has often lambasted the Kremlin for mishandling the war effort. He intensified his criticism of Putin over the past weeks.

Girkin co-founded the Club of Angry Patriots, a hardline nationalist movement pushing for more extreme measures to achieve victory over Ukraine.

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