It’s time to form a posse and reel this boy in, once and for all. He’s wrecked too much havoc around the liberated, or attempting to liberate, countries of the former Soviet bloc and he’s at the center of the cultivated havoc in Eastern Ukraine.
Most reading this blog know who this dirtbag is, but for those who don’t, here’s a rundown from a couple of sources to get you up to speed. This guy lives to sow conflict. It’s what he does best, and it’s why he must be captured and brought before The Hague‘s ICC. If he dies avoiding apprehension, so be it. He has brought immeasurable death and suffering to others needlessly for their temerity to seek freedom from their former tyrannical masters.
Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin, also known as Igor Ivanovich Strelkov, born on 17 December 1970, is a Russian citizen from Moscow who commands the Donbass People’s Militia paramilitary group and is the key figure behind the 2014 pro-Russian conflict in Ukraine.
Strelkov was charged by Ukraine authorities with terrorism and is currently sanctioned by the European Union for his leading role in the insurgency in eastern Ukraine.
According to Ukrainian and EU authorities, Girkin is a retired Russian military intelligence GRU colonel who has previously participated in the 2014 Crimea crisis.
In early April 2014, Girkin arrived in the city of Slavyansk where the self-declared “people’s mayor” Vyacheslav Ponomarev gave him the command over local militant group.
On April 15, the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) opened a criminal proceeding against “Igor Strelkov”.
He was described as a Russian recruiter and leader of armed “saboteurs” and a chief organizer of the “terror” in Ukraine’s Slavyansk Raion (including an ambush that killed one and wounded three SBU officers), who had previously coordinated Russian military takeovers of Ukrainian units in Crimea during the 2014 Crimea crisis in March.
The next day, he allegedly sought to recruit Ukrainian soldiers captured at the entrance to Kramatorsk.
The SBU presented Strelkov’s presence as proof of Russia’s involvement in the East Ukraine crisis and released intercepted telephone conversations between “Strelkov” and his handlers in Moscow.
Russia denied any interference in Ukraine by its troops outside Crimea.
The Ukrainian government said Strelkov was behind the April 17 kidnapping, torture and murder of a local Ukrainian politician Volodymyr Rybak and a 19-year-old college student Yury Popravko.
Rybak’s abduction by a group of men in Horlivka was recorded on camera.
The SBU released portions of intercepted calls in which another Russian citizen, alleged GRU officer and Girkin’s subordinate Igor Bezler orders Rybak to be “neutralized”, and a subsequent conversation in which “Strelkov” is heard instructing Ponomarev to dispose of Rybak’s body, which is “lying here [in the basement of the separatist headquarters in Slavyansk] and beginning to smell.”
Rybak’s corpse with a smashed head and multiple stab wounds was found later in April in a river near Slavyansk; Popravko’s body was also found nearby.
The incident helped to prompt the government’s “anti-terrorist” military offensive against the pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.
During the weekend of April 26–27, the political leader of the separatist Donetsk People’s Republic and Girkin’s old friend, Alexander Borodai, also a Russian national, ceded control of all separatist fighters in the entire Donetsk region to him.
On April 26, “Strelkov” made his first public appearance when he gave a video interview to the Komsomolskaya Pravda where he said that his militia in Slavyansk was formed in Crimea and consisted of volunteer veterans with combat experience from the wars in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, and others (mostly from the Russian Armed Forces); it included many Russian and other foreign citizens but was mostly (“more than half, maybe two-thirds”) locals.
He said nothing about his own background, denied receiving weapons or ammunition from Russia, and announced that his militia would not release the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) observers that it had taken hostage unless pro-Russia activists would be freed by the Ukrainian government.
On April 28, the EU sanctioned “Igor Strelkov” as a GRU staff member believed to be a coordinator of armed actions and a security assistant to Crimea’s Sergey Aksyonov.
On April 29, Girkin appointed a new police chief for Kramatorsk.
According to a report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “reportedly, on 26 May, by order of Igor Strelkov, Dmytro Slavov (‘commander of a company of the people’s militia’) and Mykola Lukyanov (‘commander of a platoon of the militia of Donetsk People’s Republic’) were ‘executed’ in Slavyansk, after they were ‘sentenced’ for ‘looting, armed robbery, kidnapping and abandoning the battle field’.
The order, which was circulated widely and posted in the streets in Slavyansk, referred to a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the USSR of 22 June 1941 as the basis for the execution.”
The report also mentions Strelkov’s efforts to recruit local women into his armed formations:
“A particular call for women to join the armed groups was made on 17 May through a video released with Igor Girkin ‘Strelkov’, urging women of the Donetsk region to enlist in combat units.”
Slavyansk’s separatist “people’s mayor” and former boss of Girkin, Ponomarev, was himself detained on an order of “Strelkov” on June 10 for “engaging in activities incompatible with the goals and tasks of the civil administration” and disappeared; according to rumors, he too was executed.
On the night of July 4-5, during a large-scale offensive by Ukrainian military following the end of a 10-day ceasefire on June 30, Girkin and his militants fled from Slavyansk which was then captured by Ukrainian forces, ending the separatist occupation of the city which had started on April 6.
Shortly before this happened, a video was posted on YouTube in which Girkin desperately pleaded for military aid from Russia for “Novorossiya” (“New Russia”, a separatist name for eastern Ukraine) and said Slavyansk “will fall earlier than the rest.”
Other rebel leaders denied Girkin’s assessment that the insurgents were on the verge of collapse.
One of them, the self-proclaimed “people’s governor” of Donetsk Pavel Gubarev, compared Girkin to 19th century Russian general Mikhail Kutuzov, claiming that both “Strelkov” and Kutuzov would “depart only before a decisive, victorious battle.”
Other activities In late April 2014, Strelkov was identified by Ukrainian intelligence as Colonel Igor Girkin, registered as a resident of Moscow.
Journalists visiting the apartment where his mother allegedly lived were told by neighbors that a “fancy black car” had that morning picked up the woman living there; the neighbors also described him as “polite” and “quiet”.
Girkin is known as a fan of military-historical movement and has participated in several reenactments connected with the Russian history.
Vice News stated that “during the 1990s, Girkin wrote for the right-wing Russian newspaper Zavtra, which is run by the anti-Semitic Russian nationalist Alexander Prokhanov” and where Borodai was an editor.
And, of course, there’s this link to Christo Grozev’s blog (some interesting material at his blog so check it out and look around) that elaborates further and reveals a direct connection to Putin thus validating Putin is directing events in Eastern Ukraine via his FSB comrade and proxy, Strelkov (The Pickle).
Igor Girkin, the lone military commander of the Slovyansk rebels, showed up on our maps just under a month ago. The Ukrainian SBU had interceptedphone calls between someone referred to as “Strelok” (the Shooter), variably referred to as Strelkov, and a Moscow number. In the calls, Strelok was a Russian-accented voice who reported to his anonymous Moscow overlord on the successful assassination of a a team of Ukrainian “Alfa” seals. In a later phone call, the same voice could be heard issuing commands to Slovyansk fighters, instructing them to kidnap the OSCE observers.A combination of SBU investigations and journalistic (mostly web-crawling) work had painted the following picture of Strelkov:
- His real name was Igor Girkin, he was born on December 17th 1970, and he was normally living in a shabby suburb of Moscow with his mother.
- He had been a colonel in the Russian army. His Moscow neighbors thought he had served in “some sort of intelligence services”, and described him as abnormally proud to wear his military uniform. Some neighbors who had know him as a child described a nerdish boy who could not communicate with other kids his age.
- Widely publicized was his interest in historical military reenactment, which kind of goes well his neighbors’ description of a dysfunctional childhood.
- He had fought as a volunteer in the Serbo-Bosnian war of 1992, on the Serb side. In memoirs he had written for various veterans’ magazines, he described gruesome war stories in which the Muslim enemies were clearly dehumanized (and the Serb fellow-fighters ridiculed as cowards). He insisted that he had gone to fight not as a soldier of fortune, but out of a sense of duty to the fellow-Orthodox Slavs against the savage Muslims. (Ironically, this essay was published in a Russian trade magazine called “Soldier of Fortune”)
- He had written fiction books, most recently “The Haldyborne Castle Detective”, a truly creepy children’s fantasy about ghosts and children looking for a treasure and magical trolls and other derivatives. The illustrations in the book were by his older sister.(Again, let’s not forget what his neighbors told us). He also published dozens of poems, ranging from patriotic, through military, to philosophical. NB! All his literary works were published under the Strelkov name.
- The SBU reported that his first “legal” entry into Ukraine in 2014 had been pin-pointed to March 24th. They had identified that he had played some role in the Crimean occupation and subsequent secession, prior to moving East and heading the Slovyansk/Donetsk military operations.
- In another intercepted phone call, he was heard coordinating the release of the OSCE hostages with Putin’s special representative Lukin; on the call, Girkin referred to having been “told to release them” by an anonymous higher power.
- In mid 2013, Girkin had taken part in a Moscow security conference of some sort, focused on the security implications of the Syrian conflict; his contribution to the conference was to warn that Russia was under threat from immigrants, and that to prevent risk of terrorism, Russia should not count on strictly legal methods alone.
In my own investigations, I had also stumbled upon a highly intriguing online presence. Strelkov had participated – for years – in a Russian online simulation military game, called “Republic SHGID” . I could trace his gaming activities back to at least 2010, and his posts continued well into 2014. In late March, on the day Crimea was annexed by Russia, the jubilant gamers went out of character on the game forum and started praising Putin and exchanging congratulations. It was here that Stelkov pinpointed to his fellow-gamers:
“By the way, you should congratulate me too, as I myself contributed significantly to this victory”
Another gamer, apparently with some knowledge of who Strelkov was, replied:
“Dear Igor G, we knew very well that you didn’t go down there to sun-bathe your ass”
Yet another gamer asked:
“By the way, do you have anything to do with – or were you – the uncatchable Kiev snipers?”
To which Girkin replied:
“You want to live longer, ask fewer questions :)”
Unfortunately, soon after I discovered this trove of online conversations and tweeted about it, the site was locked and emptied of all presence of Strelkov’s postings. His profile page is still there, though. Indeed, I found it highly intriguing that someone who is fighting a real war by day would have the time to take part in a simulated (low-tech) online war at night. That is, unless the in-game communication was part of a disguised out-of-game communication with the “overlords”. There were indeed many postings by Strelkov that could have had dual use, such as “I ran out of ammo for the machine guns, please send some more“. Sadly, now that the site is locked , we will never be able to know the truth on that.
Anyway, this was all that we knew about Girkin until yesterday. Then came the announcement that the Russian branch of Anonymous had hacked into his email and published a few extractsthat fill in a lot of gaps in his life, and promise to fill in more in future leaks. Here is a summary of what else we know now.
In one email, Girkin makes a self-introduction to someone.“Anonymous” have redacted the identity of that someone, but Girkin begins by saying “now that I know everything about you as I delved without your permission into our files, it is only fair that you know a bit more about me too”. From his focus on historical reenactment it appears this is a reenactment partner (or whatever they call each other there). Here’s what he shares with us:
- “Strelkov” was originally his secret military alias. Later he adopted the same alias for his literary and “gaming” lives.
- He graduated in Moscow as a “historical archivist”, but never worked as one and moved into the “traditional for my family military sphere”.
- He fought as a volunteer in the Transnistria secession war (1992), in Bosnia (1992-1993), and in Chechnya (“under a contract” in 1995).
- From 1996 onwards he served as an officer at FSB (the former KGB). He says he worked for the FSB until “March of this year”,
but as the email is undated we cannot be sure which year that is. (Yet, it is a very recent year, as it is the year in which he went into military retirement – typically not earlier than 40, in Russia)Today Anonymous published a new batch of emails, which show that Girkin worked for FSB until early 2013.
- In the 1999-2005 period, he was almost permanently dislocated in Chechnya. There he was wounded several times and received medals of honor for that.
- Due to staff cutbacks, he was sent into reserve as a Colonel.
- “Currently” (as of mid-2013) he was organizing the retirement paperwork, and as of the spring of the said year became Chief of Security of Marshall Capital, one of Russia’s largest investment funds, controlling, among others, Rostelecom. Anonymous published several corporate emails between Girkin and colleagues, showing Girkin organized security for Marshall Capital’s billionaire owner Konstantin Malofeev’s US visit in September 2013.
- Twice divorced, the latest time – 5 years ago. Children live with mother(s), he doesn’t see them often, but sends them money.
- He got obsessed with historical military reenactment during his student years.
Another email is less private but potentially more important for understanding what Russia’s role in Ukraine has been. This time the mail is dated : March 10th, 2014. It’s a letter to Girkin, from some other Igor (possibly Igor Bezlov, of the fame of this phone-callwhere he instructed Slovyansk rebels how to kidnap local MP Rybak, and bring him to him blindfolded – later the MP was found dead)
The letter reads:
“On Monday at 10:00 an Auto-Euromaidan convoy will be coming from Odessa. We edpect it will merge with other convoys and will try to peacefully enter into Sevastopol. We expect up to 1000 cars, that means 4000 persons, part of them women and most likely children. They will try to organize a corridor for the army and create chaos, as they did in Kiev. All of this will be video-streamed. Prepare molotov cocktails for the cars and as many people as possible, so they can’t get through. And be careful, these monsters are ready to kill their own kind for the PR and propaganda. Do not under any conditions let them merge with the Tatars. Possibly some of them will have weapons and shields; take away everything that may be used by them….currently in Odessa and in the region in our units there is active work on repairing shields; we have even taken out some boxes from the 60s. “
A further stash of emails sheds light on Girkin’s role in recruitment and advising for Russian mercenaries in the Slavonic Corps in the war in Syria. I will address these in a future post.
UPDATE: the newly hacked emails, released by Anonymous International, show that – in his own words – Girkin worked for the Russian FSB between 1996 and early 2013, when he retired. Thus it becomes increasingly unlikely that his posting in Crimea is of his own Napoleonic initiative, and suggests an active linkage between him and FSB/GRU today.
UPDATE 2: I re-read my records of Girkin’s posts on the war-game site. Interestingly, in all of them he promises his gaming buddies to be back in Moscow “by early June”. Note that he wrote this in March and April, when he was in active combat in Slovyansk and surrounded by Ukrainian army. Thus his “return plans” may be just his wishful thinking, or it may suggest a very specific end-game and timeline planned by his Moscow overlords, that may yet unfold before our eyes. Any ideas on what this may mean, please feel free to use the comment box below.
And finally, there’s this from The Jamestown Foundation.
Russia’s official position on the current conflict in eastern Ukraine has been seen as especially hypocritical, given its own treatment of secessionist efforts of Chechnya. While Moscow supports and promotes ethnic-Russian separatism in Ukraine, in the North Caucasus it brutally suppressed persistent attempts of the Chechens to secede from the Russian Federation in the 1990s and 2000s. At a May 24 press conference with the foreign media, President Vladimir Putin reiterated his support for the right for self-determination of nations (http://www.kremlin.ru/news/21090). Once again, the Russian leader pointed to Kosovo’s secession as justification for the annexation of Crimea, even though Kosovo was an example of actual secession, while the annexation of Crimea was a thinly disguised territorial grab. Last December, Putin signed into law new legislation that envisages imprisonment of up to five years for individuals who publicly call for secession from Russia (http://www.gazeta.ru/social/news/2013/12/29/n_5851929.shtml).
Meanwhile, the connections between Crimea and Chechnya took an unexpected turn when the Memorial human rights center’s well-known expert on Chechnya, Alexander Cherkasov, said that the notorious Russian militant commander in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, Igor Strelkov, may have committed crimes against civilians in Chechnya during Russia’s second post-Soviet military campaign there.
Forty-four-year-old Igor Strelkov (a.k.a. Igor Girkin) has been involved in the upheaval in the Donetsk region since the middle of April 2014. Almost from the start, observers identified him as an officer who was part of the airborne forces’ 45th reconnaissance regiment that operated around the village of Khatuni in Chechnya’s Vedeno district in 2001. The officer was known for involvement in the forcible disappearances of residents of the Chechen Republic. However, the surname “Strelkov” could have been a pseudonym or a call sign that was used by different people for undercover operations.
Cherkassov wrote in his blog on Radio Ekho Moskvy’s website that dozens of people were detained by the Russian military in the vicinity of the villages of Khatuni, Makhkety and Tevzeni in 2001 and subsequently disappeared. Memorial has information about four incidents of forcible disappearances near the village of Khatuni involving a person by the name of “Strelkov.” Six people disappeared in those incidents. Three years later, two sisters of one of the people who disappeared became terrorists. One of the sisters blew herself up on an airliner, killing 42 people while the other participated in the hostage taking of the school in the city of Beslan in North Ossetia in 2004 (http://www.echo.msk.ru/blog/shalommani/1324504-echo/).
In an interview with the Russian state TV channel Rossiya, Igor Strelkov denied that he was a member of the Russian security services and asserted that he was only helping the people of Donetsk “to have free expression of [their] will” (http://www.vesti.ru/doc.html?id=1529830). According to other reports, Strelkov is a colorful person with a variety of interests and deep expert knowledge in non-conventional warfare. In 2013, Strelkov was spotted on several occasions speaking publicly about suppressing the rebel forces in Syria. In February, he went to Crimea to help pave the way for Russia’s annexation of the peninsula. The Ukrainian security services assert that Strelkov is an officer of the Russian military intelligence service, the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) (http://podrobnosti.ua/analytics/2014/04/28/973431.html). However, other Russian experts identify Strelkov not as a GRU officer but as an officer of the second department of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), which is responsible for combating international terrorism (Link Here).
The connections between Chechnya and the events in eastern Ukraine did not stop there. On May 25, Ramzan Kadyrov informed the world via his beloved way of communication—Instagram—that the two Russian journalists from the Lifenews web portal, Oleg Sidyakin and Marat Saichenko, were released from Ukrainian captivity. Kadyrov’s people held secret talks with the Ukrainian authorities in Kyiv to secure the release of the Russian journalists. To drive the point home, the journalists were flown on Kadyrov’s airplane to Grozny, where they stayed overnight before traveling on to Moscow (http://lenta.ru/news/2014/05/25/lifenews/). The Ukrainian authorities stated that even though the government had strong evidence implicating Sidyakin and Saichenko in terrorist activities, Kyiv respected the calls by officials of the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to release them. Officials in Kyiv denied the rumors that there had been an exchange of prisoners or that a ransom had been paid for the Russian journalists (http://www.unian.net/politics/921671-v-sbu-obyyasnili-pochemu-otpustili-jurnalistov-lifenews-kotoryie-soprovojdali-terroristov.html).
However, shortly before the release of Russian journalists, one of the major Russian TV channels, NTV, reported that both separatists in Donetsk and Ukrainian authorities considered exchanging the Russian journalists for captured Ukrainian servicemen (http://www.ntv.ru/novosti/984238). After a video showing the Chechen-manned Vostok battalion in Donetsk was revealed on May 25 (http://youtu.be/vNjHwHWugKY), the version that Chechen commanders brokered the exchange of the detained Russian journalists for Ukrainian servicemen appeared to be quite plausible.
The latest developments confirm Moscow’s tactics in eastern Ukraine will be tied to the extensive experience of Russian forces in human rights violations in Chechnya. While Kadyrov will apparently enjoy ever-greater support from Vladimir Putin for services rendered, eastern Ukraine is unlikely to revel in its quick transformation into a Chechnya-like zone of lawlessness.
It’s pretty clear this scumbag is a war criminal and a provocateur extraordinaire. It’s time to end his sadistic and murderous career. But what of those who have served as his propaganda arm — you know, people like The Saker over at The Vineyard of the Saker and other bloggers who wittingly link to and endorse such transparent and obvious mendacity? Shouldn’t they also be held accountable? Blatant, witting propaganda isn’t free speech — it’s an abuse of it. In the least, such traitors should be shunned and ostracized and not celebrated and further patronized by a viewership that craves lies and can’t get enough deception.
Is The Saker really The Pickle? One of his right hand men? Do the alphabet agencies know this? If so, why haven’t they apprehended The Saker and secured his viewership logs and a listing of traitors who donate to him and link to him as an admired and authoritative source? What is the function of these organizations if not that? I want answers — but don’t expect any.