Military commander of the Donetsk People’s Republic and Russian operative Igor “Strelkov” Girkin has made a public plea to the people of Donetsk, calling to ‘severely punish’ his men for committing “serious crimes and banditry” in an attempt to save face following the city’s increased occupation by his militia.
“I ask the people of Donetsk for understanding of what people arrived here, who for months lived in a state of stress and deadly threat. Not all of the men were prepared to enter a peaceful city after being in the trenches,” he said.
“Perpetrators of such crimes will immediately be court martialed, regardless of their relationship to the militia.”
In a separate interview, he suggested that increasing wages and compensation for militiamen would increase local enlistment. He had previously made public statements decrying a lack of local support in the Donetsk area.
After retreating en masse from Sloviansk and Kramatorsk and ceding the key cities to Ukrainian forces, Strelkov’s militia took up positions in Donetsk, the region’s largest city and capital. Looting had already been a problem in the past for Donetsk, with members of the Vostok Battalion from Russia seizing the Regional State Administration building and detaining offenders from the Donbas People’s Militia.
‘Strelkov’ has been described by Ukraine’s security service as a Russian colonel and resident of Moscow. He is currently a target of European Union sanctions, and was named by the EU’s Official Journal to be on the staff of the Russian foreign military intelligence agency (GRU), and a key figure involved in the military takeover of Crimea as an assistant on security matters to Sergei Aksyonov, Crimea’s self-declared prime minister.
The Donetsk Republic remains legally classified as a terrorist organization in Ukraine.