Military Wiki
Igor Girkin
Nickname "Strelkov"
Born 17 December 1970(1970-12-17) (age 52)
Place of birth Moscow, Soviet Union
Allegiance  Russia
 Republika Srpska
 Donetsk People's Republic
Service/branch Russian Federal Security Service
Years of service 1992 – March 2013
Rank FSB Colonel[1]
Battles/wars War of Transnistria
Bosnian War
First Chechen War
Second Chechen War
2014 Crimean crisis
War in Donbass
Other work Donetsk People's Republic Defense Minister (16 May – 14 August 2014)

Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin (Russian: И́горь Все́володович Ги́ркин, Ukrainian language: І́гор Все́володович Гі́ркін ), also known as Igor Ivanovich Strelkov (Russian: И́горь Ива́нович Стрелко́в, Ukrainian language: Ігор Іванович Стрєлков ), born on 17 December 1970,[2] is a Russian citizen from Moscow[3] who played a key role in the War in Donbass as an organizer of Donetsk People's Republic insurgency.[4][5] Strelkov, a Russian nationalist and veteran of several other conflicts, was charged by Ukraine authorities with terrorism[6] and is currently sanctioned by the European Union for his leading role in the insurgency in eastern Ukraine.[7] By his own admission, he served in the Russian FSB until March 2013.[8] Ukrainian and EU authorities have identified him as a retired colonel of the GRU (Russia's external military intelligence organisation) who participated in the 2014 Crimea crisis.[7][9][10]

According to different sources, he unreservedly demands that the "liberal clans" (liberal part of the Russian elite) be destroyed.[11][12]


Involvement in earlier conflicts

The Russian media has identified Strelkov as an officer of the Russian military reserves who has expressed hardline views on eliminating perceived enemies of the Russian state and has fought on the federal side in Russian counter-separatist campaigns in Chechnya and on the pro-Moscow separatist side in the conflict in Moldova's breakaway region of Transnistria.[13] According to various sources, Strelkov took part in the Bosnian War as a volunteer on Serb side, and in Chechnya under contract.[note 1] In 1999, he published his memoirs of the fighting in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[14] In 2014, he was accused by Bosnian media (Klix) and a retired Bosnian Army officer of having been involved in Višegrad massacres in which thousands of civilians were killed in 1992.[15][16]

The BBC reported Strelkov may have worked for Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) in a counter-terrorism unit, citing Russian military experts.[17] According to Russian media, he has served as an FSB officer and his last role before retirement was reportedly with the FSB's Directorate for Combating International Terrorism.[18]

In 2014 Anonymous International disclosed what it said were Strelkov's personal emails,[19][20] revealing that he had served in the FSB for 18 years from 1996 to March 2013, including in Chechnya from 1999 to 2005, The Moscow Times reported. The newspaper also said Girkin was born in Moscow and that it contacted him by email and phone but that he would not confirm the claims. A local pro-Russia militia leader in Ukraine, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, a self-described old friend of Girkin's, said the information about Girkin was true.[21] His pseudonym "Strelkov" ("Strelok"[3]) can be roughly translated as "Rifleman"[22] or "Shooter".[23] He has also been dubbed Igor Grozny ("Igor the Terrible").[24]

Alexander Cherkasov, head of Russia's leading human rights group Memorial, is convinced that the "Igor Strelkov" of Ukraine is the same person as a Russian military officer called "Strelkov", who was identified as being directly responsible for at least six instances (on four separate occasions) of the forced disappearance and presumed murder of residents of Chechnya's mountain Vedensky District village of Khatuni and nearby settlements of Makhkety and Tevzeni in 2001–2002, when "Strelkov" was attached to the 45th Detached Reconnaissance Regiment special forces unit of the Russian Airborne Troops based near Khatuni.[25][26] None of these crimes were solved by official investigations.[27] Website of Chechnya's official human rights ombudsman in fact lists at least two residents of Khatuni who went missing in 2001 (Beslan Durtayev and Supyan Tashayev) as having been kidnapped from their homes and taken to the 45th DRR base by the officers known as "Colonel Proskuryn and Strelkov Igor";[28][29] another entry lists the missing person Beslan Taramov as abducted in 2001 in the village of Elistandzhi by the 45th DRR servicemen led by "Igor Strelko (nicknamed Strikal)".[30] Cherkasov too lists Durtayev and Tashayev (but not Taramov) among the alleged victims of "Strelkov".[26] Cherkasov and other observers suspected it was in fact the same "Strelkov" until May 2014, when Strelkov / Girkin himself confirmed he has been present at Khatuni in 2001, where he fought against the "local population".[25][26][31] According to Cherkasov, as a result of Strelkov's actions in Chechnya, two sisters of one of those "disappeared", Uvais Nagayev,[note 2] in effect turned to terrorism and died three years later: one of these sisters, Aminat Nagayeva, blew herself up in the 2004 Russian aircraft bombings over the Tula Oblast aboard a Tu-134 "Volga-Aeroexpress" airliner, killing 43; the other sister, Rosa Nagayeva, participated in the Beslan hostage crisis that same year.[27]

The emails leaked in May 2014 and allegedly authored by Strelkov contain his diaries from Bosnia and Chechnya he sent to his friends for review. One story describes an operation of capturing Chechen activists from a village of Mesker-Yurt. Asked by one of friends why he doesn't publish them, Strelkov explain that "people we captured and questioned almost slways disappeared without trace, without court, after we were done" and this is why these stories cannot be openly published.[20]

Involvement in the Ukrainian conflict

On 12 April 2014, Girkin led a group of militants who seized the executive committee building, the police department, and the Security Service of Ukraine offices in Sloviansk.[34][35] His militia was formed in Crimea and consisted of volunteers from Russia, Crimea, but also from other regions of Ukraine (Vinnitsa, Zhitomir, Kiev) and many people from Donetsk and the Lugansk region. Two thirds were Ukrainian citizens. The majority of men in the unit had combat experience. Many of those with Ukrainian citizenship have fought in the Russian Armed Forces in Chechnya and Central Asia. Others fought in Irak and Yugoslavia with the Ukrainian Armed Forces.[34][36][37]

The SBU presented Strelkov's presence in Donbass as proof of Russia's involvement in the East Ukraine crisis[38] and released intercepted telephone conversations between "Strelkov" and his supposed handlers in Moscow.[9][39] Russia denied any interference in Ukraine by its troops outside Crimea.[4] In July, Ukrainian authorities alleged Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu has coordinated all of Girkin's actions, supplying him and "other terrorist leaders" with "the most destructive weapons" since May and instructing him directly, with Russian President Vladimir Putin's approval.[40]

On 15 April, 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 Sloviansk 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,[9][41] after having crossed the Russian-Ukrainian border in Simferopol on February 26.[42] In Crimea, he was reported to be instrumental in negotiating the defection of the Ukrainian Navy commander Denis Berezovsky.[43] The next day (April 16), he allegedly sought to recruit Ukrainian soldiers captured at the entrance to Kramatorsk.[44]

Ukrainian government claims Strelkov was behind the 17 April kidnapping, torture and murder of a local Ukrainian politician Volodymyr Rybak and a 19-year-old college student[45] Yury Popravko.[10] Rybak's abduction by a group of men in Horlivka was recorded on camera.[46] 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 Sloviansk] and beginning to smell."[46][47][48] Rybak's corpse with a smashed head, multiple stab wounds and ripped stomach was found later in April in a river near Sloviansk; Popravko's body was also found nearby.[48] Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov described Girkin as "a monster and a killer"[3] and the incident helped to prompt the government's "anti-terrorist" military offensive against the pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.[46]

During the weekend of 26–27 April, the political leader of the separatist Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and Girkin's long-time friend,[23] Alexander Borodai, also a Russian national from Moscow,[23] ceded control of all separatist fighters in the entire Donetsk region to him.[5] On 26 April, "Strelkov" made his first public appearance when he gave a video interview to Komsomolskaya Pravda [34] where he confirmed that his militia in Sloviansk came from Crimea. He said nothing about his own background, denied receiving weapons or ammunition from Russia,[4][5] 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 were first freed by the Ukrainian government.[45] On 28 April, 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.[7] On 29 April, Girkin appointed a new police chief for Kramatorsk.[49] On May 12, "I. Strelkov" declared himself "the Supreme Commander of the DPR" and all of its "military units, security, police, customs, border guards, prosecutors, and other paramilitary structures."[50][51]

According to a report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, "reportedly, on 26 May, by order of 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 Slovyansk, 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 Slovyansk, 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 Girkin 'Strelkov', urging women of the Donetsk region to enlist in combat units."[52] Sloviansk's separatist "people's mayor" and former boss of Girkin, Ponomarev, was himself detained on an order of "Strelkov" on 10 June for "engaging in activities incompatible with the goals and tasks of the civil administration".

On the night of 4–5 July, during a large-scale offensive by the Ukrainian military following the end of a 10-day ceasefire on 30 June, Girkin and his militants fled from Sloviansk, which was then captured by Ukrainian forces, thus ending the separatist occupation of the city which had started on 6 April.[53] Shortly before this, 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 Sloviansk "will fall earlier than the rest."[54][55] 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 the 19th century Russian general Mikhail Kutuzov, claiming that both "Strelkov" and Kutuzov would "depart only before a decisive, victorious battle."[54] However, his retreat was strongly criticized by the Russian nationalist Sergey Kurginyan and a rumor inside Russian ultranationalist circles alleged Russia's powerful "grey cardinal" figure Vladislav Surkov conspired with east Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov to organize a campaign against "Strelkov" as well as against the Eurasianism ideologue Alexander Dugin.[56] Kurginyan accused Strelkov of surrendering Sloviansk and not keeping his oath to die in Sloviansk.[57] Kurginyan believes that surrendering Sloviansk is a war crime, and Strelkov should be responsible for that.[57] Donetsk People's Republic security minister Alexander Khodakovsky, the SBU Alfa defector and commander of the rebel Vostok Battalion, also protested and threatened a mutiny.[56]

In social networks Girkin claimed that "Junta forces" drive their newly mobilized Ukrainian soldiers into the ground with bulldozers, National Guard of Ukraine shoots at peaceful citizens and own "punishers" and the "punishers" with use of artillery and MRLs succeeded in destroying the local potato harvest.[58]

On 10 July 2014, news outlet Mashable reported finding execution orders three days previously for Slavov and Lukyanov in Girkin's abandoned Sloviansk headquarters. The orders were signed "Strelkov" with the name Girkin Igor Vsevolodovich printed underneath. Also sentenced to death was Alexei Pichko, a civilian who was caught stealing two shirts and a pair of pants from an abandoned house of his neighbour; according to an unconfirmed story, his body "had been dumped on the front lines" after he was executed.[59] On July 24, Ukrainian authorities exhumed several corpses from a mass grave site on the grounds of a children’s hospital near the Jewish cemetery in Slovyansk, which might contain as many as 20 bodies of those executed by order of "Strelkov".[60] Among the identified victims were four Ukrainian Protestants who the police and locals said have been kidnapped on June 8 after attending a service at their church, falsely accused of helping the Ukrainian Army, robbed for their cars, and shot the following day.[61][62]

Multiple sources cited a post on the VKontakte social networking service that was made by an account under Girkin's name which acknowledged shooting down an aircraft at approximately the same time that the civilian arliner Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 (MH17) was reported to have crashed in eastern Ukraine in the same area near the Russian border on July 17, 2014.[63][64][65][66] The post specifically referenced how warnings were issued for planes not to fly in their airspace and the downing of a Ukrainian military Antonov An-26 transport plane which the Ukraine Crisis Media Center suggested was a case of misidentification with the MH17.[64][66] This post was deleted later in the day and the account behind it claimed that Girkin has no official account on this social service.[67][68][69][70] Most of the 298 victims in the plane's crash came from the Netherlands; the country's biggest newspaper De Telegraaf included Girkin's photo in the front page collage of pro-Russian rebel leaders under the one-word headline "Murderers" ("Moordenaars").[71] Russian opposition lawyer and politician Mark Feygin posted a purported order by Girkin where he instructs all his men and commanders who "have in their possession personal effects from this plane" to deliver the found items to his HQ so "the valuables (watches, earrings, pendants, and other jewelry and items from valuable metals)" would be transferred to "the Defense Fund of the DPR."[72][73] Girkin was reported to the author of an alternative version of the incident, wherein "no living people were aboard the plane as it flew on autopilot from Amsterdam, where it had been pre-loaded with 'rotting corpses'." This conspiracy theory was then distributed and discussed in all of Russia state-controlled media outlets.[74]

At his press-conference on July 28, 2014, Girkin denied his connection to the downed plane and announced that his militants were killing "black-skinned" mercenaries.[75]

According to ITAR-TASS news agency on Wednesday, August 13, 2014, Girkin was seriously wounded the previous day in fierce fighting in the pro-Russian rebel held territories of Eastern Ukraine, and was described to be in "grave" condition.[76] DNS representative Sergei Kavtaradze refuted this news this shortly after, saying Strelkov is "alive and well".[77]

On August 14 leadership of DNR announced that Strelkov was dismissed from his position of defense minister "on his own request" as he was assigned "some other tasks".[78] On August 16 the Russian TV-Zvezda claimed that Strelkov was "on vacation" and was appointed a as military chief of combined forces of Lugansk and Donetsk (he previously was in command of Donetsk forces only) and after he returns he will be put to a task of creating an unified command over forces of Federal State of Novorossiya.[79]

On August 22 a former insurgent Anton Raevsky ("Nemetz") said in an interview in Rostov-on-Don that Strelkov and his supporters are being cleansed from DNR by FSB because of this insufficient compliance with Kremlin's policy on the republic.[80]

On August 28 Russian media published photos of Girkin walking with Alexander Dugin and Konstantin Malofeev in Valaam Monastery in northern Russia.[81][82]

In November 2014 in an interview for "Moscow Speaking" radio said that "the existence of Lugansk and Donetsk People's Republics in their current form, with the low-profile but still bloody war, is definitely convenient for USA in the first place, and only for them, because they are the ulcer that divides Russia and Ukraine".[83] Later in November in an interview for "Zavtra" newspaper Girkin stated that the war in Donbass was launched by his detachment despite both Ukrainian government and local combatants avoided an armed confrontation before. Also he recognized himself responsible for actual situation in Donetsk and other cities of the region.[84]

In an interview on 22 January 2015 Igor Girkin, one of the major "Russian self-defence" commanders in 2014 Crimean crisis, explained that the "overwhelming national support for the self-defence" as portrayed by the Russian media was fiction, and they actually had to "forcibly drive the deputies to vote [to join Russia]". Majority of the law enforcement, administration and army did not support the "self-defence" (one notable exception being Berkut) and only the presence of regular Russian army in Crimea "made the whole thing work".[85]

Other activities

In late April 2014, Strelkov was identified by Ukrainian intelligence as Colonel Igor Girkin, registered as a resident of Moscow.[49] Journalists visiting the apartment where he allegedly lived with his mother, sister, as well as his former wife and two sons,[3][86] were told by neighbors that a "fancy black car" had that same morning picked up the woman living there.[4] The neighbors also described him as "polite" and quiet,[23] and knew him under two surnames, Girkin and Strelkov.[3] Girkin is known as a fan of military-historical movement and has participated in several reenactments connected with various periods of Russian and international history,[23][87][88] but especially the Russian Civil War where he would play a White movement officer.[43] His personal idol and role model is said to be the White Guard general Mikhail Drozdovsky, killed in a battle with the Red Army in 1919.[43][89] According to The New York Times, "his ideological rigidity precedes any connections he has to Russia’s security services, stretching back at least to his days at the Moscow State Institute for History and Archives. There, Mr. Strelkov obsessed over military history and joined a small but vocal group of students who advocated a return to monarchism."[14]

Vice News claimed 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.[23] Writing for Zavtra ("Tomorrow"), Girkin and Borodai, who too was reported to previously having fought with Girkin for Russia-backed Transnistria and Republika Srpska separatists in Moldova[90] and Bosnia and Herzegovina,[citation needed] together covered the Russian war against separatists in Chechnya[90] and Dagestan.[88] He would also often write as "Colonel in the Reserves" on the Middle East subjects, such as the conflicts in Libya, Egypt and Syria, for Georgia's pro-Russian Abkhazian separatist Russian language Abkhazian Network News Agency (ANNA).[88]

Strelkov claims that he worked as a security chief for the controversial Russian businessmen Konstantin Malofeev. The Prime Minister of the self-proclaimed Donetsk Republic Alexander Borodai was also a close associate of the businessman.[91][92]

Andrey Piontkovsky adduces the name of Girkin among the names of like-minded persons and says, "The authentic high-principled Hitlerites, true Aryans Dugin, Prokhanov, Prosvirin, Kholmogorov, Girkin, Prilepin are a marginalized minority in Russia."[93][94] Piontkovsky adds, "Putin has stolen the ideology of the Russian Reich from the domestic Hitlerites, he has preventively burned them down, using their help to do so, hundreds of their most active supporters in the furnace of the Ukrainian Vendée."[93][94] In his interview to Radio Liberty, Piontkovsky says, maybe the meaning of the operation conducted by Putin is to reveal all these potential passionate leaders of social revolt, send them to Ukraine and burn them in the furnace of the Ukrainian Vendée. Moreover, this is namely what is prompted to him to do by collective Remchukov in his writings...[95]

In his interview to Oleksandr Chalenko on 2 December 2014, Girkin confirmed that he is colonel of FSB.[1] He also acknowledged that among the so-called Novorossiya militants exists anarchy.[1] Particularly militants of Igor Bezler act independently, the so-called "Russian Orthodox Army" has split in half, others forces represent a patched cover of various unrelated groups.[1] Girkin was also critical about the ongoing attacks on the Donetsk International Airport calling them as pointless and harmful.[1]

As one of the Lugansk commanders Alexander Bednov ("Batman") was killed by end of December 2014 by other militants Girkin fiercely criticized it as a "murder", "gangster ambush" and suggested that other commanders seriously consider leaving Donbass to Russia, as he did.[96] In January 2015 in an interview for Anna News Girkin said that in his opinnion "Russia is currently at state of war", since the volunteers who arrive to Donbass "are being supplied with arms and shells". He also noted that "he never separated Ukraine from Soviet Union in his mind" so he considers the conflict as an "civil war in Russia".[97]

Political views and reception

Girkin's political views are close to Russian nationalism, Monarchism and White movement, strongly influenced by the Russian Orthodox Church. While Western (and Chinese) civilizations are mostly driven by materialism, Russia is driven by spirituality and in fact is "the only big, Christian country left in the world that is able to resurrect Christianity". Majority of Russian population "is driven by Christian values, and administration supports that attitude", this being the major cause for all the negative steps undertaken against Russia recently, which are "attempts to put her back in order". Attempts to destroy the Russian Empire were undertaken for long time by the foreign conspirators, including October Revolution in 1917 and dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, because Russian natural and human resources are required by the Western civilization to continue its "age of hedonism". These attempts are and will be continued, and currently the Russian nation is "at state of war with the whole Western civilization attempting to destroy it".[98]

Former colleagues of Girkin, Alexander Borodai and Konstantin Malofeev stated that Girkin lost contact with reality, while commenting on his recent interviews, particularly Borodai called him psychiatrically inadequate in interview with Ksenia Sobchak.[1]

Leader of political movement "Essence of Time" questioned Girkin for actions in giving up Slovyansk to the so-called banderovites.[58]


  1. The pro-Russian group Heroes of South-East (Герои Новороссии) published Strelkov's past military assignments, disclosed by himself on military reconstructions forum: June 1993 – July 1994 military unit (в/ч) 11281 МО ПВО; Feb–Dec 1995 contract service 22033 «Х» (166-я гв. МСБР); 24 March 1995 till 10 October 1995 67th ОГСАД; August 1996 – July 2000 military unit 31763. July 2000 – April 2005 military unit 78576. After 2005 military unit 36391. The latter was identified as international terrorism prevention unit of FSB (Управление по борьбе с международным терроризмом 2-й Службы ФСБ России).[citation needed]
  2. Uvais Nagayev was a resident of Tevzani who was originally detained by the troops of the 45th DRR on 27 April 2001. After surviving a summary execution that killed Zaur Dagayev (Nagayev was wounded and pretended to be dead),[32] Nagayev was again detained by a group of federal servicemen including Strelkov and then held for ransom before being transported to Khankala military base and vanishing without a trace.[27] According to an FSB-connected mediator, Nagayev had been tortured into confessing to unspecified crimes before he was executed and his body was destroyed with explosives.[32][33]


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