Girkin, who is also known by the alias Igor Strelkov, has repeatedly warned that Russia faces revolution and even civil war unless President Vladimir Putin‘s military top brass fight the war in Ukraine more effectively.
A former Federal Security Service (FSB) officer who helped Russia to annex Crimea in 2014 and then to organise pro-Russian militias in eastern Ukraine, Girkin said before his arrest that he would be entering politics.
“A systemic crisis is brewing in Russia – or it is already in the grip of crisis – while the temperature of society is rising,” Girkin told Reuters in May. “We are on the cusp of very grave internal political changes of a catastrophic character.”
Oleg Nelzin, co-chairman of the Russian movement supporting Strelkov, read out a letter from Girkin in which he asked supporters to start work on putting him forward to run in the March election.
A picture of Girkin, 52, above a slogan “Our president – Igor Ivanovich Strelkov – ’24,” was projected on a screen behind Nelzin as he spoke. Applause followed at the meeting, a clip of which Girkin’s supporters posted on Telegram.
Girkin’s supporters confirmed to Reuters that he had asked to be put forward to run. As he has not yet been convicted, he could theoretically take part in the election, they said. Girkin denies the charges against him.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview published on Friday that he hoped Putin would run in the March election for another term as president, a move that would keep Putin in power until at least 2030.
Russia has cracked down on nationalist critics, who have called for a much tougher approach to fighting the war including martial law and a country-wide mobilisation, after the failed June mutiny by Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin.
Prigozhin was killed in August in a plane crash, the causes of which are still unclear. Girkin, who has also served in Chechnya and Moldova, was arrested in July.
Girkin, a monarchist who wrote a dissertation on the “White Russians” who fought the “Red” Bolsheviks after the 1917 revolution, is one of the most prominent nationalists who has criticised Russia’s execution of the war, which he casts as part of an existential battle with an arrogant West.
He has called the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union “positive” but says the post-Soviet Russian elite was corrupt and working for the West to weaken Russia.
Girkin said in May that despite his own criticism of Putin’s failings, “Putin is currently the only legitimate figure in the Russian Federation.”
He said in August that he would make a better president than Putin, describing the Kremlin chief as “too kind” and “too trusting” of Russia’s security and military chiefs.
Girkin was convicted last year in absentia by a Dutch court of murder for his role in the shooting down of Flight MH17 over Ukraine in 2014 with the loss of 298 passengers and crew. He has denied he was involved.