18:18 Jun. 6, 2016
Igor Strelkov, Russian ‘military hero' of the war in Ukraine, steps out of the shadows to fire salvo at president Putin and predict upheaval in Russia
Two years ago, Igor Strelkov (Girkin)was the most notorious personality of the war in east Ukraine. A former Russian security forces officer, with a clipped grey moustache and a penchant for historical re-enactments, Strelkov led the takeover of the town of Slavyansk in April 2014, which presaged the armed conflict across the region.
In Kyiv, he was seen as a bloody and ruthless war criminal – a Kremlin agent sent by Moscow to wreak havoc in Ukraine. In Russia, he was portrayed as a valiant military hero, leading the local rebel forces in their fight against Kyiv. He could be found striding through the corridors of the Donetsk rebel headquarters, with a Stechkin pistol in a vintage wooden holster at his hip and flanked by heavily armed bodyguards.
Two years later, he cuts a very different figure, during an interview with the Guardian at his small Moscow office. In civilian clothing and slightly chubbier, he spent the encounter stroking his huge Maine Coon cat, Grumpy, which lay on the table in front of him. Strelkov has in recent weeks turned his rhetorical fire on the Kremlin itself, even if he no longer has an army with which to back up his words. Full story