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25 Jan, 2024 18:31

Ex-Donbass commander handed four-year prison term

The Moscow City Court has found Igor Strelkov guilty of inciting extremism online
Ex-Donbass commander handed four-year prison term

Former Donetsk militia commander Igor Strelkov was sentenced by the Moscow City Court on Thursday to four years in a penal colony; after his release, he will be banned from administering websites for three years. He was charged with public incitement of extremism over two posts on social media.

Strelkov, whose real name is Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin, shot to fame leading a Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) militia group that defended Slavyansk for nearly three months in 2014, after the region split from Ukraine following the US-backed Maidan coup in Kiev.

He later served as defense minister of the DPR but was relieved of duty in August 2014, going on to become a popular military blogger and publicist.

”Girkin is sentenced to imprisonment for a term of four years, to be served in a general regime colony,” said a judge at the Moscow City Court.

Prosecutors had requested a sentence of 4 years and 11 months, with five years being the maximum. His lawyer Alexander Molokhov told RIA Novosti that he will appeal the verdict.

While the proceedings were held behind closed doors, the sentencing hearing was open to the public.

Girkin, aka Strelkov, was arrested in July 2023 and charged with public incitement of extremist activities, presumably over two posts on his Telegram channel. He pleaded not guilty.

The court refused to grant him bail, noting that ‘Strelkov’ had a “vast network” of contacts and skills that could help him escape. The former blogger and soldier had also been an officer of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).

After the start of the Russian military operation in Ukraine in February 2022, Girkin became an outspoken critic of the Kremlin, accusing Moscow of dragging its feet and urging for escalation.

A Dutch court tried him in absentia for his alleged role in the July 2014 downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17, in which all 298 people on board died. Ukraine has blamed the incident on the DPR militia and Russia. In November 2022, Girkin and two others were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison. Moscow has rejected the verdict as “politically motivated” and refused to extradite the trio.