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MH-17 shooter Girkin convicted on extremism charges in Russia

The war criminal Igor Girkin (also known by his nom de guerre Strelkov) was convicted for criticizing the “lacking” war effort against Ukraine on social media.
Igor Girkin (Strelkov). Photo: Russian media

Former Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) officer Igor Girkin, 53, has been a fierce critic of the top command of Russia’s armed forces and President Vladimir Putin for the ineffective conduct of the military campaign against Ukraine, which a Russian court has deemed a discredit to the Russian army.

Igor Girkin was sentenced to 4 years in a Russian penal colony for “calls for extremism” on 25 January, Russian media reported.

Igor Girkin is a former commander of Russian forces that invaded the Donetsk Oblast in eastern Ukraine in 2014. Girkin was charged with terrorism by Ukrainian authorities. He has also been sanctioned by the European Union, United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Canada, and Switzerland for his leading role in the war in eastern Ukraine.

Girkin was arrested in the summer of 2023 in Russia in the wake of the warlord Prigozhin’s failed uprising. This followed months in which Girkin publicly reproached Putin for not waging war against Ukraine aggressively enough.

Last November, Girkin announced from jail that he wanted to run for president of Russia in 2024; however, was never approved as a candidate.

In 2022, The Hague found Girkin guilty of the downing of passenger jet Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, which killed all 298 people on board. He was convicted in absentia of mass murder for his part in the plane’s destruction and given a life sentence. Russia was later accused of harboring the criminal.

Piet Ploeg, the leader of a Dutch foundation that represents the families of MH17 victims, said that Girkin’s sentence in Russia “feels very double.”

“He is jailed, but not for the right reasons. He should be in a Dutch prison for his role in the MH17 shoot-down and not for voicing his opinion,” Ploeg told The Guardian.

The Russian court also banned Girkin from administering internet resources for 3 years, severing the pro-war blogger’s connection with over half a million of his followers on Telegram.

Girkin was convicted under an article of medium severity, with a punishment of up to 5 years imprisonment. According to Ukrainian media Zmina, in the first half of 2023, only every sixth person under these charges received a real prison term.

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