Pro-war Russian nationalist Igor Girkin, who is in custody awaiting trial for inciting extremism, said on Sunday he wanted to run for president even though he understood the March election would be “sham” with the winner already clear.
Girkin, who is also known by the alias Igor Strelkov, has repeatedly said 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 and his supporters were entering politics.
“I understand perfectly well that in the current situation in Russia, participating in the presidential campaign is like sitting down at a table to play with card sharps,” Girkin said in a letter published by his account on Telegram.
Girkin said that he did not think that he would be allowed to take part in the election, but hoped that his attempt to unite patriotic forces would disrupt the Kremlin’s plan for a “sham election” in which “the only winner is known in advance”.
“This is our chance to unite in the face of external and internal threats,” Girkin said in the letter post entitled “I am going to run”.
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.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said last week 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.