Russia arrests famous military blogger critical of Putin

A prominent Russian military blogger, who has criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and his military leaders for not fighting harder in Ukraine, was arrested in Moscow on Friday.

Igor Girkin, also known as Igor Strelkov, was detained at his home on Friday morning and faces extremism charges, according to his wife, Miroslava Reginskaya. He appeared in a Moscow courtroom later on Friday.

The pro-war blogger had stepped up his criticism of Putin in recent days, calling the Russian leader a “thug” and a “cowardly tramp”.

“For 23 years, the country was ruled by a thug who managed to ‘blow dust in the eyes’ of a significant portion of the population,” Girkin said in a post Tuesday, according to CNN.

“Now he is the last island of legitimacy and stability in the state,” he added. “But the country will not be able to endure another six years of this cowardly tramp in power.”

The Russian army veteran and former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer helped Moscow annex Crimea in 2014 and later organized separatist militias in eastern Ukraine.

He and two others were convicted in a Dutch court last November for their role in the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine in 2014, which killed all 298 people on board.

Girkin’s arrest comes as Putin seeks to restore order after a short-lived mutiny last month led by Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin, who has also been highly critical of the Kremlin’s pursuit of the war.

CIA chief Bill Burns said on Thursday he believed Putin was trying to “buy time” as he decided what to do with the mercenary leader, who has spent time in Belarus and Russia since his march on Moscow was called off.

Burns added that the Prigozhin mutiny exposed Putin’s weaknesses and misjudgments.

“If and when the Ukrainians make further advances on the battlefield, I think it will cause more and more Russians in the top flight and outside the top flight to also pay attention to Prigozhin’s critique of the war,” he added.

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