MH17 convict Igor Girkin loses appeal against pre-trial detention

Igor Girkin, one of three men convicted for the downing of flight MH17, will remain in custody. A Russian court rejected on Tuesday an appeal by his lawyers to suspend his pre-trial detention. The 52-year-old man was arrested in July 2023 in Moskow on charges of extremism.

Girkin is a popular blogger in Russia and has been critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu over how the Russian invasion of Ukraine was going. He argues that Russia’s rulers should do more and accused Putin of weakness and indecision. He is part of the Russian ultranationalist social movement called the “Club of Angry Patriots.”

Girkin is a former intelligence agent for the FSB who organized pro-Russia separatist militias in eastern Ukraine in 2014. In November last year, the court in The Hague sentenced Girkin in absentia to life in prison for his role in downing flight MH17. The court considered it proven that Girkin, together with Sergey Dubinsky and Leonid Chartchenko, played critical roles in delivering the BUK missile system that shot down the passenger plane and removing it from the scene afterward.

Authorities arrested Girkin in Moscow in July after he fiercely criticized President Vladimir Putin via messaging service Telegram. The blogger’s arrest is seen as a sign that the Russian authorities are tolerating less and less criticism, including from ultra-nationalists who support the war in Ukraine.

Girkin risks a five-year prison sentence if convicted. He tried to convince the court in Moskow that he had no plans to flee. In doing so, Girkin pointed to the prison sentence he faces in the Netherlands. He also said he is in poor health.

The court saw no reason in this to lift his detention. In rejecting his appeal, the court confirmed an earlier ruling to keep him in custody until September 18, AP reported.

Reporting by ANP and NL Times

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