Russian hardline Putin critic and commander Strelkov was arrested

image source, Igor Strelkov/Telegram

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Igor Strelkov appeared regularly on Telegram to condemn Russia’s handling of the invasion of Ukraine.

Russian authorities have detained outspoken pro-war blogger Igor Kirkin, also known as Strelkov, a fierce nationalist critic of Russia’s deadly military campaign in Ukraine.

His wife said he was taken from his Moscow apartment while he was away.

He was later arraigned on charges of inciting terrorist activity and faces up to five years in prison.

Strelkov, a former FSB intelligence colonel, played a key role in Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea.

He led Russia’s proxy army in the war in eastern Ukraine.

Igor Strelkov was one of three indicted by a Dutch court last November for involvement in the 2014 missile attack that brought down a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet in the collision zone, killing all 298 people on board.

But as the full-scale invasion became increasingly entangled last year, Strelkov’s criticism of military failures and commander-in-chief President Vladimir Putin grew louder.

“We’re already lost,” he told social media followers last year.

A few days ago he called the Kremlin leader “an imbecile” and “a cowardly waste of space”, says BBC Russia editor Steve Rosenberg.

Strelkov’s lawyer, Alexander Molokov, confirmed his detention and said his flat had been searched.

He later appeared at Meshchansky District Court, northeast of the capital, where a judge rejected his request for a closed-door hearing, the Ria Novosti agency reported.

Since the start of the war, opponents of Russia’s so-called special military operation in Ukraine have been given long prison sentences for the most mild of views.

image source, Yulia Morozova/Reuters

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Igor Strelkov (R) appeared in a Moscow court hours after his arrest

But Vladimir Kvachkov, a retired Russian intelligence officer earlier this week, was accused of “discrediting” the Russian military. He and Strelkov formed the “Club of Angry Patriots” and broadcast live their criticism of Russia’s political and military leadership.

For years Strelkov, 53, was considered untouchable, says BBC Russian’s Ilya Parabanov.

This is due to his previous role as a colonel in the FSB security service, but he was identified as a suspect and later convicted of downing MH-17 when he was commander of Russia’s proxy force in occupied Donetsk, eastern Ukraine.

Russian intelligence website Agentstvo suggested that authorities had revised a previously unspoken rule allowing pro-war bloggers to express their anger as much as they wanted.

Commentator Tatiana Stanovaya said it was a moment for many Siloviki – the President’s inner circle – was eagerly awaited.

Prigozhin’s Wagner group’s powers have been stripped since last month’s mutiny, and the warlord himself has backed away from his earlier aggressive attacks on the defense minister and army chief.

This week he appeared in a video, apparently filmed in Belarus, welcoming his fighters and saying Russia’s campaign in Ukraine was “a disgrace we want no part in.”

Ukraine’s main intelligence directorate hailed Strelko’s arrest as a sign that those inside the Kremlin were approaching an “intense phase of internal conflict.”

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