In the afternoon of 13 August, several Ukrainian and Russian sources reported that Igor Girkin (aka Igor Strelkov), known as the former so-called “Defence Minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic” was detained in the occupied Crimea as he was travelling to the war in Ukraine with forged documents. An alleged photograph of Girkin with shaved head and moustache emerged, although we believe the photograph could be photoshopped.
As it appears, the majority of the Russian commentators were caught off-guard by this message. Yet the general sentiment towards Girkin is favourable, with many noting his input in starting the war in the Donbass in 2014 when his unit occupied Sloviansk (now under Ukrainian control). While the original message with the photo of Girkin was published by Anzhelika Bezler, wife of Nikolay Bezler, one of the leading so-called “DPR” commanders, the first Russian source to respond to the news was Aleksandr Zhuchkovskiy, Girkin’s close associate, who said the following:
Igor Strelkov really tried to get to the frontline, but was detained in the Crimea.
This is, of course, a unique story that has no analogues. Often people are sent to war bypassing legal grounds, they are given the opportunity to fight and atone the crimes they committed. Here, by hook or by crook, a person is trying to go to war, ready to give for the sake of the Motherland and his principles the most valuable thing – his life. But he is not allowed.
In fact, Strelkov did not set any political goals and did not intend to cause confusion in Novorossyia. All he wants is to take a personal part, even as a private, in the Russian national liberation war that he started.
Strelkov is a man with vast military experience. His whole life speaks of him as an outstanding patriot. It is a great political crime that such a person cannot get to the front.
Similar sentiment was shared by the large military commentator and reporter Voenkor Kotyonok Z:
“Why did Volodya shave off his mustache?” (c).
It is reported that Girkin-Strelkov was detained in the Crimea while trying to get into the SMO zone. This is reported by the militia and volunteer Alexander Zhuchkovsky. Here, in any case, it must be said that the experience of people like Igor Girkin right now during the special operation in Ukraine is extremely in demand, as I have already said a thousand times.
Counter-terror, special operations, catching saboteurs and clearing the liberated land of Malorossiya [Ukraine] and Novorossia are very important. Why is this experience not being used is another, big and serious question, concerning both the general doctrine and the personality of Strelkov-Girkin himself.
The “Vostok” battalion commander, the ex-Ukrainian spetsnaz leader who defected in 2014, Aleksandr Khodakovskiy, on the other hand appears to criticise Girkin’s open anti-government position. Girkin has become once again famous during the start of the invasion thanks to his regular critique posted in his Telegram channel and livestreams:
The first reaction when I learned that Strelkov was trying to break through to Crimea to the front using forged documents, but was detained, was sympathy. No considerations, no logic has yet turned on – the emotion worked first, and I took it as a basis.
But neither in relation to me nor in relation to anyone else, the state has never been guided by irrational sympathy – only naked pragmatism. Of course, Strelkov’s entry into the war zone, no matter what role he would play there, would sharply strengthen his position, which is built on an anti-government basis, and the state could not but react.
In this situation, two principles collided: the human need to contribute to a common cause, and the principle when a common cause is done together. It is difficult for me to call Strelkov’s emotional position regarding authorities constructive: I believe that criticizing is permissible, but discrediting is not. Otherwise, the principle of “together” is not respected. Believe me, in our time, the biggest feat for those who have something to say is to bite their tongue.
As we can judge from available sources, the majority of pro-Russian military experts, reporters and sources do support Girkin, noting that he is a controversial figure nevertheless.
Igor Girkin fires back
Large number of both Ukrainian and Russian sources picked up the news of Girkin’s detainment which was certainly unexpected given Girkin’s high-ranking position in the Russian FSB security service. As a reminder, Girkin served in the FSB for nearly 15 years and retired in the rank of a Colonel.
Girkin himself has opened up the veil of mystery about his detention in the morning of 14 August, refuting the messages that he was apprehended:
1. To comment on Igor Nikolaevich Bezler is to not respect oneself.
2. I haven’t been to the prison cell and don’t plan to.
3. Sooner or later I will certainly be at the frontline (this war, as I warned in advance, will be long and difficult). But not right now.
Thus, at this point, it is unclear what are the circumstances of Girkin’s alleged detention. Pro-Russian news sources seem as confused, with Moscow Times reporting the following:
Former Minister of Defense of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) Igor Girkin (Strelkov) denied the information about his detention while trying to break through to the front. “I haven’t been to the prison cell and don’t plan to,” he said.
Earlier, former DPR field commander Igor Bezler and a number of telegram channels reported on Girkin’s attempt to get into the combat zone from Crimea. It was alleged that the ex-FSB colonel used fake documents in the name of Sergei Runov, and also shaved off his mustache so that he would not be recognized.
Girkin actually confirmed that he was not allowed to fight in Ukraine, but promised to get there in due course. “Sooner or later I will certainly be at the frontline (this war, as I warned in advance, will be long and hard). But not right now,” he wrote.
As a popular personality in the Ukrainian media sphere, Girkin’s critique of the Russian authorities attracts significant attention in Ukrainian circles. Due to lack of available information however, the messages in the Ukrainian space are mainly confined to sharing the same information published elsewhere.
Ukrainian Presidential Office advisor Oleksiy Arestovych in his 13 August broadcast with Mark Feigyn shared a very brief message recapping the latest information about Girkin’s detention that was available at the time. The intel was scarce however and Arestovych carefully stated that “according to some data Girkin was indeed let through into Kherson Oblast”. Mark Feigyn, believes this must certainly be some kind of operation by the FSB to increase the morale of the Russian troops fighting in Ukraine given Girkin’s high-ranking position. Arestovych appeared to agree with this statement. More information from both these gentlemen is likely to be provided in the upcoming broadcasts, which we will share as soon as it is available.
Here we explain why Igor Girkin: https://wartranslated.com/why-is-igor-girkin-still-alive/