The Daily Telegraph

Defeats could finish Putin, warns Russian nationalis­t

- By James Kilner

VLADIMIR PUTIN could be “finished off” as Russian president by a few more military defeats or a rise in inflation, a self-confessed war criminal has claimed.

The comments by former commander Igor Girkin, who led the separatist uprising in Ukraine in 2014, pile more pressure on to the Kremlin, which has started to see previously loyal support slip away.

Girkin, better known as Strelkov, has admitted to using civilians as human shields and exposing them to shelling and has been blamed for shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in July 2014, killing 298 civilians.

In a video, he told more than half a million of his hardcore pro-war Russian followers that an economic or military shock could end Mr Putin’s presidency.

“All it will take is an outbreak of inflation or a few more military defeats to finish him off,” he said with the red and blue flag of Novorossiy­a, a Russian nationalis­t fantasy state that subjugates Ukraine, hanging on a wall.

The influence of Girkin, a former FSB colonel, has grown since the war began and is often seen as a yardstick for radical pro-russian sentiment. Girkin also used to brag about ordering prisoners and looters to be shot.

After the shooting down of MH17, Girkin drifted into obscurity but the Kremlin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February rejuvenate­d him and he reinvented himself as a military analyst.

He has criticised the Kremlin, calling its invasion doomed to failure unless it orders a full mobilisati­on.

‘You could say that the battle for the initiative has been won completely by the Ukrainian armed forces’

Earlier this month, the Ukrainian army recaptured an area around Kharkiv roughly the size of Devon.

“You could say that the battle for the initiative that I have been talking about since June has been won completely by the Ukrainian armed forces,” he said. “I am 99 per cent, perhaps 100 per cent, confident in our defeat.”

Girkin had styled himself as a revanchist Imperial Russian officer in 2014, growing a thin moustache and strutting around. Now his face is puffy, his hair has thinned and he has grown a white tuffy goatee beard.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom