In the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s widely speculated disappearance from the public eye, retired FSB colonel and terrorist “Defense Minister” Igor “Strelkov” Girkin has reemerged offering his own personal insight, but this time criticism of the Russian leader.
Girkin had recently arrived in Yekaterinberg, Russia’s fourth largest city, to announce the founding of a new cell of his “New Russia” (Novorossiya) movement in the Urals. A day prior, a large rally was held in public view to send off 50 Russian recruits to fight in Ukraine. Local organizers have acknowledged that these “volunteer” mercenaries can earn between $1,500-2,500 to participate in the war against Ukraine.
During a press conference (documented by local news site Znak) held in the Ural Mining University, Girkin touched on a number of subjects, not the least of which brazed the current rumors circulating of a potential palace coup in the Kremlin.
In a culmination of public frustration against the Russian president, Girkin predicts, “not only liberals, but the patriots (nationalists – ed.) will turn against Putin. Then he will repeat the fate of Slobodan Milosevic, who was overthrown [by] liberals & patriots, since he conducted a policy that was neither yours nor ours.” Girkin lays out two conclusions for Putin’s fate following such an overthrow: he can either be executed like Russian Emperor Nicholas II, or die in prison as Milosevic did awaiting his trial in The Hague.
Feuding & criticism
Previously Girkin has spoken out about an alleged “fifth column,” vowing to protect Putin from any possible power shift. “The West and the ‘fifth column’ are making no secret of their plans to overthrow Putin. Their path is that of dragging out the war [in Ukraine] as long as possible,” Strelkov told reporters in September. “I support Putin and am against the ‘fifth column.’ Russian people need to completely reject any opposition activity,” he said.
The root of new frustration for Girkin was due in part to Putin’s war policy, as he lambasted the “fifth column” derailing the war effort; personally calling out Putin’s own presidential advisor Vladislav Surkov, known otherwise as the ‘grey cardinal’ and for being the architect of not only Russia’s frozen conflicts but its entire current political system. Surkov is of Chechen descent and is considered a counterweight to FSB-KGB security service hawks dominating Putin’s inner circle. The “fifth column” label, as described by Girkin, applies to all state actors and industrialists who view Russia as a resource base, namely those who live in Russia but keep wealth, property, and family abroad (such a label would apply to Putin and many of those he has enriched during his rule). It has been reported that Surkov was instrumental in pulling Girkin and his associates out of Ukraine as part of an ongoing feud between rival political camps.
He also took effort to criticize Putin’s strategy in the Donbas, saying he could have “freed all of New Russia” with virtually no blood spilled if he had acted more decisively in the spring of 2014. Instead, he blames the “fifth column” for convincing Putin to change course and, as a result, “we have not stopped and the war is more bloody,” while lamenting the ever increasing international sanctions and pressure that have come since.
This indecisive course by Putin was elaborated on, with Girkin incensed with the flip-flopping nature of official advocacy for the “Russian World,” and also the self-declared republics it has created, blasting the Kremlin’s use then disuse of the term ‘New Russia’ (Novorossiya) to describe the conflict region, then its alternating use in media to describe the Donetsk and Luhansk republics as legitimate, then self-declared, or ultimately as regions of Ukraine.
On the war
Girkin accuses ‘the West’ of setting its sights on repeating the events of World War I, drawing loose parallels between Russia entering the war on the side of Serbia; and later blaming the current war on instigation by the United States. During WW1, the U.S., Serbia, and Russian Empire were all Allied members.
As a ‘tool’ of the U.S., he continues that even if Russia had not occupied Crimea, and even if war did not take place in the Donbas (which he has fully admitted to igniting himself), then “still the Kyiv government would lead to war with Russia.”
In fact many people are waiting for Russia in Kyiv
However, for the former Donetsk Republic’s minister of defense, the war will soon resume against Ukraine: “We conclude that this year the fighting will resume in the Donbas, and will resume soon enough. The war will unfold even more widespread than it was conducted during the fall and winter campaigns.” Just how widespread he predicts the war will escalate may coincide with his imperialist ambitions of creating ‘New Russia’. For him, Ukraine “is part of Russia” and names Odesa, Kharkiv, Kherson, and Mykolaiv as potential targets. “In fact many people are waiting for Russia in Kyiv.”