Vladimir Putin's Presidential Election Rival Fears for Life

Vladimir Putin’s Presidential Election Rival Fears for Life

Jailed former Russian military commander Igor Girkin says that he fears for his life after announcing his challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin in next year’s election.

Girkin, a nationalist who has also served as an officer in Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and played a key role in Moscow’s illegal 2014 annexation of Crimea, was detained on charges of extremism in June and has been behind bars since then.

Last month, the former commander announced that he was seeking to usurp Putin in the March election, maintaining that the current president is “too kind” and “trusting” for the position and he would be “more competent in military affairs.”

On Thursday, Girkin said in an interview published by Russian online media outlet Baza.io that he was afraid of meeting the same fate as Yevgeny Prigozhin, deceased founder of the Wagner Group mercenary organization.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is pictured on Friday delivering a speech in Moscow, while former military commander Igor Girkin is shown in the inset. Girkin is challenging Putin in next year’s presidential election from behind bars and said that he fears for his life.
Although Prigozhin was officially killed in an accidental airplane crash in August, many have suggested that he was assassinated by Putin in retaliation for leading a brief military revolt two months earlier following disagreements concerning the war in Ukraine.

Girkin said he did not “approve” of the Wagner Group and Prigozhin’s mutiny attempt but “did not feel any joy” when hearing of his death, while still having “no particular regret.”

“I still believe that the elimination of [Prigozhin] and his associates was hardly authorized directly by the supreme acting power,” Girkin said, according to a translation of the interview shared to X, formerly Twitter, by WarTranslated’s Volodymyr Tretyak on Friday.

“No one has been held accountable for the elimination of Prigozhin,” he added. “The President voiced a version of spontaneous death – I do not believe in this version.”

Girkin said that he expects to be found guilty in his coming trial and sentenced to “imprisonment for an indefinite period of time.”

He then said that his “greatest fear” was being spared a prison sentence, only to be handed “amnesty” instead and die under suspicious circumstances like Prigozhin.

“My arrest came a month after Prigozhin’s mutiny,” said Girkin. “My greatest fear is that instead of the usual criminal punishment, I will be ‘amnestied’ in the same way as the Cook [Prigozhin].”

Newsweek reached out for comment to the office of Putin via email on Friday.

Girkin went on to acknowledge that he is “highly unlikely” to defeat Putin in the election, saying that it would take “some miracle” for him to secure victory. He said he was running in part to help “avoid the impending disaster” of Russia losing the Ukraine war.

The charges that landed Girkin in jail are related to his outspoken criticism of Putin and the Russian military’s strategy in Ukraine. His criticism has continued from behind bars.

A letter published online last month, which was attributed to Girkin and dated October 26, complained that Putin’s forces “continue to demonstrate growing weakness (in comparison with the enemy’s capabilities).”

Girkin is one of several challengers for the Russian presidency in next year’s election, although the contest is not expected to be competitive, with the country also having a long history of elections marred by allegations of fraud.

Putin himself only officially announced his candidacy on Friday. If elected, the 71-year-old would go on to serve a fifth term as president. He has also served two stints as Russia’s prime minister.

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