Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin, a.k.a Igor Ivanovich Strelkov, a former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer, was instrumental in the formation of the breakaway Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) in 2014. He rose to the position of DPR defense minister, and lost that position following the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 in August 2017; Netherlands prosecutors sought his extradition. Strelkov was convicted in absentia by a Netherlands court in November 2022. The Netherlands authorities' reach does not extend to Russia, and there are minimal prospects that the Russian government will hand him over.
Since 2014 in Russia, Strelkov has continued to advocate reuniting all Ukraine with Russia. When President Vladimir Putin seemingly fulfilled his wish in February 2022 with the launch of the invasion of Ukraine, Strelkov emerged as a fierce critic of the military campaign, claiming that it was halfhearted, and advocated mass mobilization to end the war quickly.
Strelkov has been consistently pessimistic about Russia's prospects if it does not go all out in the war. He recently poured cold water on Russia's recent capture of Soledar, which was hailed as a success in Russia.
"The capture of the center, and most of Soledar, by Wagner units is an undoubted tactical success. However, the enemy's front was NOT broken through; it was not possible to encircle the units and subunits defending the city. The enemy is creating a new line of defense on the western outskirts, relying on salt mines. The battles for the city are not over yet – the western outskirts and suburbs will have to be stormed. The enemy command definitely controls the situation, and although the retreat is accompanied by inevitable losses (including, probably, hundreds of garrison soldiers 'forgotten' in the building), control is maintained and there is no talk of the enemy fleeing."
Strelkov even argues that Ukraine was willing to sustain tactical setbacks such as Soledar while exhausting the Russian army and husbanding its forces for a major counterattack, following the strategy it had successfully employed before Ukraine's successful Kharkhiv counteroffensive last summer.
"The Armed Forces of Ukraine suffer tactical failures, retreat, [and] lose ground after fierce heavy battles, but do not touch their strategic reserves. Perhaps they are preparing to repel the advance of Russian troops in other more promising areas. Maybe somewhere they plan to attack themselves. The fact is that they are losing positions on the fortified line Seversk-Soledar-Bakhmut without trying to carry out serious counterattacks... That is, the control of the battle on their part remains exactly clear and planned."
But Strelkov is not content with attacking the military. As opposed to the other Russian military bloggers, his criticism extends to Putin, for example, "You, Kremlin cretins, still do nothing for half a year to win the war, and lament more about the 'inevitable compromises.'"  Or, referring to the power struggle between the Russian defense ministry and the Wagner mercenary soldiers, he said: "However, the president has been stubbornly evading personal responsibility for the actions of the troops in the war for almost 11 months... But now he will still have to make a choice: either let [Yevgeny Viktorovich] Prigozhin be 'devoured,' or deal a strong blow to [Russian Defense Minister Sergei] Shoigu, or take up the matter himself.
While the axe has yet to fall on Strelkov, he has received very strong hints that he is playing with fire. One of Putin's most prominent media surrogates, Vladimir Solovyov, referred to Strelkov as an "anti-patriotic blogger" who teaches the Russian Armed Forces how to fight, but Strelkov himself did not get to the front line. Strelkov shot back, "As usual, he [Solovyov] lied profusely and uncontrollably. Please tell the unrespected Vladimir Rudolfovich that I am ready for any public debate with him held on any neutral platform."
Another warning shot came in article by Tatyana Antonova in Moskovskiy Komsomolets, titled "Untouchable Strelkov: Why the ex-DPR Defense Minister Criticizes the President with Impunity." The article attacked Strelkov as motivated solely by resentment and acting as a loose cannon. It was little wonder that nobody listened to him and sought to employ his services.
Strelkov's charmed existence was due to Putin's forbearance. Putin respected Strelkov as a hero, and, understanding that heroes have their rough edges, cut him some slack. However, Strelkov should realize that such forbearance is not limitless, and Putin could withdraw his protection.
Antonova's article follows below:
Igor Strelkov (Source: M24.ru)
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"It seems that only disconnection from the Internet can stop Igor Strelkov's 'epistolary bombardment' [i.e. mass posting]. Immediately after the New Year holidays, Girkin [i.e. Strelkov], who returned from Donbass under the pretext that he had not been properly registered for military service, erupted with a series of angry (bordering on hysterical) posts on his Telegram channel. The Christmas ceasefire announced by Putin on January 6-7 served as a trigger.
"Strelkov called this gesture a step towards Russia's capitulation and burst forth with a panicky item. Psychotherapists call it catastrophizing, a distorted thinking, which makes a person elevate all the negative components of the agenda to the absolute level and think exclusively in a direction that "all is lost." Psychologists argue that such a state can facilitate the blurring of permissible boundaries in statements and actions.
"Now people in Moscow salons are wondering how it happened that Mr. Strelkov is still at liberty. After all, at the very least, he has certainly talked his way [into being prosecuted under] the article about discrediting the Russian Armed Forces. And if one reads carefully, one can also find calls to overthrow the authorities.
"Why did Igor Ivanovich at some point stopp noticing red lines and stubbornly jump every conceivable bounds of what is permissible, even for the most ardent critic?
"Sergei Markelov, a political consultant and social psychologist, believes that Strelkov's conduct is driven by deep, long-standing resentment. The military leader, who stood at the forefront of the formation of the Donbass [People's] Republic, carries a deep psychological trauma: He and his talents turned out to be clearly without demand.
"'The core of Strelkov's problem, what causes him to overstep the bounds of acceptable criticism, is his personal and professional irrelevance. His channels of communication with the system are broken. This became the cause of his marginalization.
"'He seriously wants a dialogue, but the system does not hear him. So, Strelkov has no choice but to hang out in front of the flag and record his videos with a despondent expression on his face. Inattention offends any man, especially if he is a talented military man,' claimed Sergei Markelov.
"The expert recalled that eight years ago, at the start of the conflict in Donbass, Strelkov performed, to some extent, the function of adviser. Apparently, there is no need for advice now. Thus, Igor Ivanovich is forced to raise the stakes, just to be heard.
"'For all his good competences, he has already become an odious figure. Strelkov's resentment overrides his rational [thinking]. It's no longer so important what he says. What matters is the manner in which he does it. The system responds to any similar manifestation with distrust.
"'He was provided with the opportunity to travel to the SVO area and, as they put it, "walk close to the line of contact." But what is important for any system is the manageability of its parts. And Strelkov is perceived as unagreeable [to this]. He doesn't understand that every raising of stakes on his part means his even greater elimination from all processes,' argues the political consultant.
Sergei Markelov (Source: Radiokp.ru)
"Political analyst Sergei Markov also named resentment as the main factor in Strelkov's behavior. The expert stressed that he considered the former DPR defense minister a hero, but an undisciplined one.
"'The thing is that the army values not only talent and heroism, but also discipline. The army, as a big machine rejects people such [as Strelkov]. That is why Strelkov was not allowed to the front. His talents have not been realized because he is undisciplined, careless and self-sabotaging.'
"Political consultant Sergei Markelov is convinced that Strelkov could have realized his abilities as a military strategist by wrapping himself in a mode of silence. But so far this is not happening. The blogger himself is unlikely to turn his anger to serenity, and to stop criticizing everyone and everything. But the Russian leadership, too, treats Strelkov in a strikingly loyal manner, as if it takes no notice of his combative passages.
"However, this loyalty is not unlimited, assured Sergey Markov: 'So far, no one has had a serious conversation with Strelkov. I believe there is a personal order from the president not to touch him. Igor Strelkov is a hero, and heroes are never convenient. They are abrasive, but it is precisely these people who form part of the nation's potential. They are needed so that something unpredictable can be done. Otherwise, the bureaucracy will transform everything into a grey mass.
"'The president needs to have a conflict with the bureaucracy. A handful of 'heroes' are therefore under the personal protection of the head of state. But this protection won't last forever. Strelkov himself undermines the order not to be touched when he gets personal.'
Sergei Markov (Source: M24.ru)