Jailed former ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ militia leader to run for president

The former defence minister of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic”, Igor Strelkov, who is currently in jail while under criminal investigation in Russia for “calls for extremist activities”, has announced he plans to run for president in next year’s Russian elections. Strelkov, who is widely known as Girkin, wrote on Telegram that he believed he had more military competence than current Russian President Vladimir Putin but that he wouldn’t be “annoying his voters for 20 plus years” as he wasn’t “as healthy and athletic as Putin was at his age”.

The next Russian presidential election is scheduled for 2024. Meduza recently reported that the Kremlin had recently decided who Putin’s “rivals” for the election could be, apparently including a stipulation that no politician under 50 could become a candidate for fear they might make voters think that “a 70-year old Putin is no longer the same ‘strong man’ who rose to power”.

The investigation into Strelkov’s activities was recently classified. It was two Telegram posts made by Strelkov on 25 May that triggered the investigation. The posts claimed Russia was preparing to give up Crimea and that some families of conscripts were not getting their payouts. Strelkov was sent to a pre-trial jail despite petitioning to be put under house arrest.

Strelkov, who is 52, was one of the leaders of the separatist movement in eastern Ukraine in 2014. He declared the creation of the “Donetsk People’s Republic”, and commanded militias in the breakaway region until August 2014 when he lost the support of the Kremlin and returned to Russia.

Last November, a court in The Hague found Strelkov and two others guilty in absentia of shooting down flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014.

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