Jailed Russian nationalist declares presidential bid
August 31, 2023 05:43 PM
Jailed former separatist commander Igor Girkin said Thursday he wanted to run for Russian president in an election next year and piled fresh criticism on leader Vladimir Putin.
The 52-year-old -- better known by his alias Igor Strelkov -- was detained on extremism charge in July for criticising Russia's leadership.
Girkin was arrested following a series of posts critical Putin and he faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
Russia is expected to hold a presidential election in March 2024.
With the election approaching, the Russian authorities are cracking down not only on liberal critics but also anti-Kremlin figures supporting Moscow's offensive in Ukraine.
"I consider myself more competent in military affairs than the incumbent president, and certainly more competent than the defence minister," Girkin said in a statement announcing his candidacy.
Girkin -- who wears his moustache in the style of a Tsarist officer -- is an ardent supporter of Russia's campaign in Ukraine but has criticised the Russian military leadership.
The announcement was released on his Telegram channel, where he is followed by more than 700,000 people, and received more than 13,000 likes.
Girkin said Putin was "too kind".
He said that the Russian leader "had been led by the nose not only by his respected Western and Kyiv partners, but also by the heads of our security agencies, intelligence and military-industrial complex."
Unlike Putin, Girkin said, he "would not have to give in to the wishes of my friends to the detriment of Russia's economy," referring to numerous allegations of corruption.
Girkin's moment of glory came in 2014 when he was the leader of Kremlin-backed rebels fighting against Kyiv's troops for the Donetsk People's Republic, an unrecognised breakaway region in eastern Ukraine.
In 2022, a Dutch court sentenced him to life in prison in absentia for the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in July 2014, with all 298 people on board killed.
He also fought in Bosnia alongside the Serbs, in Dagestan and Chechnya.
The announcement came a day after a Russian court upheld his pre-trial detention.