Igor Girkin, former Russian FSB secret service officer and top commander of Russian-backed militants in eastern Ukraine in 2014, once again publicly admitted committing extrajudicial executions in the early days of Russia’s war in Donbas.

In a controversial interview with Ukrainian journalist Dmytro Gordon, the notorious Russian terrorist also known under codename Igor Strelkov said he personally ordered the execution of at least four Ukrainian nationals, including civilian non-combatants.

“Four were executed, or maybe approximately as many more or a bit more maybe,” Girkin was recorded as saying.

“I shot and killed a murderer that drunkenly killed a militant and injured two more, having left his combat post with his weapon.”

He added that “sometimes we weren’t even aware of who we were burying.”


Besides, Girkin also assumed his responsibility for murdering Volodymyr Rybak, a city council member in the occupied Horlivka who tried to put away the tricolor flag of Russian-backed militants.

“Naturally, Rybak as a person actively opposing the militia forces was viewed by me as an enemy,” the terrorist said.

He also admitted issuing a personal order to execute 19-year-old student Yuriy Popravko and 25-year-old Yuriy Dyakovskiy, who were subsequently tortured, slain, dumped into a river near the city of Slovyansk in April 2014.

Two were executed due to their alleged membership in the Right Sector, the Ukrainian far-fight organization that later formed volunteering irregular forces involved in hostilities in Donbas.

“I do not decline my responsibility for issued orders to exterminate the enemy,” he added.

“The orders were signed in compliance with my understanding of the situation. I was understanding that extrajudicial execution was unacceptable since the authority was being established and an all-out war was being organized. So given the manpower resource I had at my disposal — very poor in terms of its level of training and general merits — and I was forced to cobble together a court-martial and to personally chair it.”


This is not the first time Girkin admits extrajudicial killings in Donbas: In 2016, he also confirmed having executed at least 4 persons in 2014 in an interview with Russian media outlet Komsomolskaya Pravda.

Girkin, 49, participated in conflicts in Bosnia and Transnistria in the 1990s, as well as in the Chechen wars later. He served as an operative of Russia’s FSB secret service in Saint Petersburg and was honorably discharged in 2013 in the rank of colonel.

By his own admission, Girkin was also involved in Russia’s annexation of Crimea in early 2014.

In April 2014, head of a force of 52 armed militants, Girkin crossed the Russo-Ukrainian border and occupied the Donbas city of Slovyansk, marking to the beginning of the earliest major battle of Russia’s war in Donbas.

After months of armed stand-off against Ukrainian forces, militants fled Slovyansk, only to occupy the cities of Donetsk and Horlivka and continue the war, with Girkin serving as the top commander of Russian-backed militants in the Donetsk Oblast through August 2014.

In February 2020, the international inquiry officially indicted Girkin as one of four key persons directly responsible for the downing of the Malaysia Airlines MH17 flight by a Russian Buk-M1 missile in the sky over Donbas by in July 2014.


In the interview with Dmytro Gordon, Girkin once again denied his guilt.

In August 2014, he was dismissed from all positions in occupied Donbas and returned back to Russia. He lives in Moscow and criticizes the Kremlin and the leadership of militants in Donbas over their corruption and the lack of resolve in absorbing the rest of Ukraine into a resurrected imperial Russia.

Since 2014, Girkin is wanted in Ukraine on charges of terrorism and is also included in the sanctions list of the European Union and the United States.

Following the interview, which triggered a fierce uproar in Ukraine against journalist Dmytro Gordon, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s office asserted that the recorded material could be used in the criminal prosecution against Girkin.

“This is particularly about the information that indicates Russia’s control of and weapon supplies to illegal militarized formations,” as deputy prosecutor general Gyunduz Mamedov asserted on May 18.

“The Russian national told concrete facts of committing extremely serious crimes. And beyond all doubts, this information will be carefully analyzed by prosecutors and investigators.”

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