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Russian nationalist, Kremlin critic Girkin sentenced to 4 years in prison

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his address to the nation at the Kremlin in Moscow on Feb. 21, 2022. (ALEXEY NIKOLSKY/Sputnik/AFP via Getty Images/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

A court in Moscow has sentenced Russian nationalist Igor Girkin (aka Strelkov) to four years in prison on a charge of making public calls for extremist activities.

The prosecution last week had sought almost five years in prison for the former leader of Kremlin-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Girkin has denied the charges.

Girkin, 53, was arrested in July 2023 after strongly criticizing Russian President Vladimir Putin in online statements for his handling of the Ukraine invasion. He accused the Kremlin leader of “cowardly mediocrity” and described him as a “nonentity.”

He has also called out Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu for making “mistakes” in the invasion of Ukraine and accused him and Putin of “incompetence.”

Girkin last year even called on Putin to transfer power to “someone truly capable and responsible.”

A former officer of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Girkin has also argued for a total military mobilization to ensure Russian victory in the war against Ukraine.

Girkin was a key commander of Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region in 2014 and helped Russia annex Ukraine’s Crimea that year.

In November 2022, a court in the Netherlands sentenced Girkin and two other defendants to life in prison in absentia in the case of the 2014 shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over Ukraine. All 298 people on board died in the crash.

In February, international investigators said there were “strong indications” that Putin was personally involved in the incident.

The Boeing 777 flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was blown out of the sky on July 17, 2014, amid a conflict between Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian armed forces. The victims came from more than a dozen countries, although more than two-thirds of them were Dutch citizens.

Russia has denied any involvement in the downing of the plane.