Igor strelkov (Girkin), a former fsb officer and leader of the terrorist quasi-entity “DPR”, who was arrested in russia on charges of “calling for extremism”, announced on August 31 that he would run for president in the upcoming presidential election. Moreover, he listed point by point his advantages and disadvantages over putin. In particular, strelkov said that he was more competent than putin and shoigu in military affairs, and blamed putin for the fact that due to his trust in the heads of the security forces, russia was not ready for war. Strelkov also accused putin of supporting “his friends who are taking the capital out of russia” and that is why military production is suffering.
What is really behind strelkov’s demarche?
The seemingly presidential ambitions and “devastating” criticism of the current head of the kremlin, who was sentenced in absentia to life in prison by the District Court of The Hague for organizing the destruction of the Malaysian Boeing in August 2014 and was arrested on charges of calling for extremism, only at first glance look like a desperate protest against putin’s rule.
The nomination of “technical candidates” in russian presidential elections has been a kremlin election strategy since the days of yeltsin. Back then, in order to promote yeltsin as president of the russian federation, the “democrat” yeltsin was opposed in the election campaign by the communist-stalinist zyuganov (in the next election – by the “liberal” zhirinovsky). Thus, other real candidates were artificially excluded from the race for the presidency. Immediately before the election, “technical candidates” reduced their campaigning activity, and massive criticism by the controlled media of zyuganov’s “bloody totalitarianism” or “unbalanced zhirinovsky” against the background of total control over the vote counting procedure left russians no choice in the results of their will.
The situation with strelkov’s claims is likely to be in the same vein, as strelkov has never been an independent figure – all his actions were determined by the kremlin and coordinated by russian special services.
With putin’s approval rating rapidly falling as a result of failures on the Ukrainian front, shelling of major russian cities and economic collapse, it was decided to return to the time-honored tactic of “pushing” an artificially created “opposition candidate” to the electorate. The figure of strelkov, who is positioned in the russian patriotic environment as a “national hero” who participated in the wars in Transnistria, Bosnia, and Chechnya, and in 2014 led a detachment of russian citizens to capture Sloviansk, was the best fit for this role. The “people” are actively promoting the image of strelkov as one of the active supporters of the war against Ukraine and a principled critic of the russian military command and putin personally. At the same time, until his arrest on July 18, consistent criticism of putin did not lead to any reprisals against strelkov by the authorities.
Therefore, strelkov’s “anti-putin” rhetoric is only a line of behavior agreed upon in advance with the kremlin administration that does not pose a direct threat to the kremlin, but only creates the illusion of the right to choose among the electorate. And it is not surprising that while being detained in a pre-trial detention center on charges of a state crime, strelkov has access to his Telegram channel, where he publishes posts about participating in the elections. Moreover, strelkov’s arrest allows the russian authorities to resolve other pressing issues, including cracking down on russian ultranationalists who supported the armed rebellion of PMC “wagner” leader prigozhin on June 24. Strelkov’s statement provoked a split among ultranationalists from the “Club of Angry Patriots”, for whom their leader’s presidential ambitions came as a complete surprise and caused discord. His detention has also exacerbated the confrontation between kremlin groups (the so-called “kremlin towers”), allowing the authorities to identify potential traitors in putin’s inner circle. The public promotion of strelkov as a genuine candidate for regime change in the kremlin is also aimed at the Ukrainian authorities and the collective West as a false distraction and an attempt to mislead about this possibility.
Therefore, strelkov will continue to be positioned by kremlin propaganda as the only alternative to putin that can actually win. A logical extension of this scenario could be his official registration as a candidate and even his release. The kremlin is now deciding how exactly the artificially created challenger will “give way” to the main candidate in the run-up to the election. There are many options, from self-removal to accusations of collusion with the Ukrainian authorities and the “prigozhin option.” By the way, each option has already been prepared with information. In particular, the information space quotes his wife’s statements about the sharp deterioration of strelkov’s health and his lawyer, who said that during the process of bringing strelkov from Lefortovo to court, he was riding in a car with Ukrainian citizens accused of war crimes in Mariupol.