Igor “Strelkov” Girkin, a former Russian intelligence officer turned militia leader turned prisoner, said he was afraid he would suffer the same fate as the deceased Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin.
“My greatest fear is that instead of the usual criminal punishment, I will be ‘amnestied’ in the same way as the Cook [a common nickname for Prigozhin due to his background in the catering business],” Girkin said in his latest prison correspondence with Russian news outlet Baza ahead of his trial.
He also had a grim outlook for his upcoming trial, saying there’s “no place left on Earth where I would be recognized as a law-abiding citizen.”
Girkin explained: “In the West, I have already been recognized as a terrorist after the verdict of the Hague Tribunal. And in my homeland, apparently, the dubious reputation of an extremist awaits me.”
The Hague District Court issued Girkin a life sentence in absentia for his involvement in downing the civilian MH17 airline in 2014 that involved a Russian BUK missile system.
Girkin was arrested in July 2023 by Russian authorities over extremism charges, where his pro-war views, often critical of the Russian military’s lackluster performance, clashed with the Kremlin’s narratives.
In the interview, he also commented on the war in Ukraine, his trial, and his bid for the Russian presidency despite his imprisoned status.
Girkin said he received updates on the war through radio and television, as well as letters from his wife that outlined notable updates on social media. However, he maintained a rather pessimistic outlook on the war and said there would be “no agreement and no freeze,” and that it would “last a long time” as the West “set as its goal the gradual destruction of Russia.”
He also said Russia has “entered a period of acute instability,” as evidenced by Prigozhin’s mutiny and Russia’s failure to successfully repel Ukrainian counteroffensives. He also noted that despite his personal disdain for Prigozhin, he did not believe in the Kremlin’s narrative of his death, implying that he believed Prigozhin was assassinated.
Regarding prison conditions, he described them as “normal” without any incidents or pressure from the authorities.
“There are health problems, but everything is due to age, I don’t complain about anything,” he said.
However, Russian authorities are known to censor correspondence for political prisoners like Girkin, and it is not known whether the correspondence had been edited.
“There are few letters coming, which is bad. I suspect censorship is to blame,” he said, adding that he sometimes received letters from individuals with a liberal view, which surprised him.
Regarding his bid for the presidency – a move mocked by his fellow citizens – he claimed to be in “sound mind and good memory” in his decision. While he acknowledged the opportunity as “unlikely,” he said he would lead Russia to victory and said the failure of the current government left him no choice but to run for president in order to set things right.
“We have long had no other way than to win complete victory without risking collapse into turmoil. If there were other options, then all of them were lost long ago by the current government irrevocably,” he said.
In November, Girkin shared his thoughts on the war in a hand-written letter to his wife from prison, in which he criticized Russia’s inability to achieve superiority “even on a very narrow section of the front.”
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