Russian Nationalist Igor Girkin Announces Plan To Challenge Putin in Next Year’s Presidential Elections

Jailed critic calls the Russian president a ‘lowlife’ and ‘cowardly bum.’

AP/Dmitry Lovetsky, file
A pro-Russian commander, Igor Girkin, center, at Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, July 11, 2014. AP/Dmitry Lovetsky, file

Russian pro-war nationalist Igor Girkin, who is currently behind bars for repeatedly criticizing President Putin and calling him a “lowlife” and a “cowardly bum,” intends to run for president in the 2024 elections, challenging Mr. Putin’s intention to stay in office six more years. 

Mr. Girkin announced his presidential bid in a Telegram statement from a pre-trial detention center. He called Mr. Putin “extremely gullible.” The former military commander was arrested in July on charges of “extremism.”

In the aftermath of the plane crash that likely killed the founder of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a week ago, Mr. Putin “has all but eliminated any serious political rival that may have challenged his popularity in the upcoming 2024 presidential elections,” an associate professor at the School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, Javed Ali, tells the Sun.

Mr. Putin’s “iron-fisted approach” to silence political rivals guarantees a victory for him in the upcoming elections, Mr. Ali adds. The Moscow District Court ordered Mr. Girkin to remain in custody until September 18. If convicted, he could receive five years in prison. The presidential elections are scheduled for March 2024.

Mr. Girkin, who uses the war name Strelkov, led separatist troops in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and was appointed Minister of Defense of the breakaway Donetsk region. He was dismissed from his position that year after being convicted of murder by the District Court of The Hague for downing a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine, which killed 298 people. 

Mr. Girkin returned to the spotlight after the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine when he became a “milblogger,” a term referring to invasion supporters who nevertheless criticize Russia’s military operations. 

Mr. Girkin said the Kremlin’s actions over Kyiv are “insufficient.” In one of his Telegram messages, he argued that if Mr. Putin “is not ready to take the leadership over the creation of war-ready conditions,” he must transfer power to someone who is.  

Mr. Girkin was arrested because he is seen as “a mouthpiece for ultra-nationalist groups” that criticize Russia’s handling of the war and the “limited results” they’ve achieved so far, an associate fellow of the Russia and Eurasia Programme at Chatham House, John Lough, tells the Sun. “The Kremlin will ensure that there is no opposition to Putin’s re-election,” Mr. Lough adds.

In the presidential bid announcement, Mr. Girkin states he is “more competent in military affairs” than the president. He also claims Mr. Putin is “too kind” and an “extremely trusting person” who was controlled by Western individuals such as Presidents Obama, Trump, Macron, and Zelensky. In contrast, Mr. Girkin says he has no ties or obligations to Russia’s elites and has never trusted Western powers.

“Strelkov supporters are trying to sign him up for presidential race-2024. It is likely an attempt to keep him alive by making as much noise as possible,” an editorial director of the journal for Russian affairs Riddle, Anton Barbashin, said.

“The longest suicide note in history,” said an X user who frequently comments on the war, Simon Bowden. “Goodbye & good riddance to Igor Strelkov aka Girkin,” Mr. Bowden added.

The New York Sun

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