Igor Girkin (also called Strelkov), arrested on July 21 by the Russia authorities on charges of advocating extremism, has announced his intention to run for the Russian presidency in a letter sent from jail.

The announcement was made at a press conference on Saturday by Oleg Nelzin, co-chairman of the so-called Russian Movement for Strelkov, according to the Russian Telegram portal SOTA,

In his letter, the former Defense Minister of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) instructed his associates to set up a headquarters to collect signatures in support of his candidacy and called on various public and political organizations to support him.

“This is our chance to unite in the face of external and internal threats,” Strelkov wrote in the letter.

To register as a presidential candidate in Russia, a self-nominated candidate must collect at least 300,000 signatures from registered voters.

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Who is Igor Girkin / Strelkov?

Girkin, who uses the pseudonym “Strelkov,” is a former employee of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) where he held the rank of colonel.

He took an active part in Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2014, where he is accused of war crimes, including ordering the torture and murder of civilians.

The District Court of The Hague also found Girkin guilty in absentia of involvement in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over Ukraine in August 2014.

He remains a staunch supporter of Russia's illegal war in Ukraine, but has recently been critical of Russia's military and political leadership, with his language becoming increasingly inflammatory and intemperate.

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Strelkov was detained in July, in his apartment in Moscow and searched. He is accused of extremism because of his posts on social media. However, Strelkov pleaded not guilty and has since been held in custody while his case is “investigated.”

Public reaction

While most of the Russia’s pro-Kremlin mainstream media did not publish or comment on Strelkov's statement, Russian social-media users did - mocking his avowed intention to run for the presidency.

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One user wrote in a local Telegram channel: “How can you [Putin] put your opponent in jail if he's already in jail? I wonder how he'll get out of it.”

Others mocked the possibility of pre-election debates between him and other candidates:

“Debates? In jail?” wrote a user called aleks_andr s. To which he received a very short answer from someone called “O”: "In the jail in The Hague".

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