Lawyers to ask for jailed former separatist leader to be released to fight in Ukraine

Igor Strelkov in court, August 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE/MAXIM SHIPENKOV

Igor Strelkov in court, August 2023. Photo: EPA-EFE/MAXIM SHIPENKOV

Defence lawyers will ask for the former Donbas separatist leader Igor Strelkov, also known as Girkin, to be released to go to fight in Ukraine when they appeal his prison sentence next month, Russian business daily RBC reported Wednesday, quoting lawyer Alexander Molokhov.

Strelkov, who declared the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (DPR) in eastern Ukraine in 2014, was sentenced to four years in prison in January for disclosing state secrets and inciting extremism after he posted two messages on his Telegram channel in which he discussed Russian military preparations for the surrender of annexed Crimea and missing payments due to the families of mobilised soldiers. He pleaded guilty on all charges.

His defence team immediately lodged an appeal against that verdict, which is due to be heard in court on 15 May. The lawyers will include in their appeal an agreement with a DPR military unit to offer Strelkov the position of platoon commander.

Although those convicted of extremist offences are banned from being sent to fight, RBC said Strelkov would be eligible to serve at the front if Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned him or the court annulled his sentence.

Strelkov’s wife Miroslava Reginskaya confirmed on Telegram on Wednesday that he had been approved to serve as the commander of a DPR military unit. She added that it was a crime not to let “an officer and patriot with his unique military experience and knowledge” go to the front.

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