Igor Strelkov, a controversial former Donbass militia commander, has been detained in Moscow, on Friday, amid an investigation into allegations of extremism, according to news outlets and family members. The controversial soldier-turned-blogger is also known by his real name Igor Girkin.
Citing sources, newspaper RBK reported on Friday that the Russian Investigative Committee was executing a search order at Strelkov’s home, and that he had been taken into custody.
Strelkov became the focus of international attention in 2014 while serving as defense minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), which was then unrecognized.
The role made him the prime suspect in the Dutch investigation into the downing of MH17, which crashed in July 2014, killing all 298 people on board. In November 2022, a Dutch court sentenced Strelkov in absentia to a life term in prison. Moscow rejected the prosecution as politically motivated and claimed it was an attempt to whitewash possible Ukrainian guilt.
Strelkov’s lawyer confirmed his detention, according to RBK. Sources in law enforcement claimed that the arrest was based on a criminal complaint filed by a former member of the Wagner private military company.
A message posted on Strelkov’s social media, which was signed by his wife, said she had learned about the detention from the concierge of their apartment block. Unidentified friends said Strelkov was suspected of extremism, according to the message.
Other Russian news outlets later confirmed the news about Strelkov’s detention, citing their own sources.
Strelkov is now a popular military blogger, and is a vocal critic of the Russian government and military leadership amid the conflict with Ukraine. He believes Moscow is not going far enough in mobilizing the capacity of the country.
Earlier this year, Strelkov was involved in a public feud with Evgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner Group. Prigozhin challenged Strelkov to go to the front lines and join his forces, although the pair could not reach agreement over which position he would take.
Prigozhin is now viewed as a pariah in Russia after staging a brief mutiny last month. He ordered some of his men to march on Moscow with the stated goal of replacing senior Russian generals. Moscow branded Prigozhin a traitor, but allowed him to leave the country to avoid major bloodshed.
Strelkov has also had tensions with fellow members of his ‘Club of Angry Patriots’ online group over his criticism of Wagner troops.