Igor Girkin: Russian hardliner convicted over MH17 crash arrested after accusing Putin of weakness

Igor Girkin, already stands convicted in his absence over the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but his criticism of Vladimir Putin is what has put him behind bars, ITV News' Chloe Keedy reports

A prominent Russian nationalist has been arrested on the order of Vladimir Putin after accusing the Russian president of weakness and indecision in Ukraine.

Igor Girkin, who is also goes by the alias, Igor Strelkov as convicted of murder in the Netherlands for his role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines jet MH17 which was shot down over Ukraine in 2014.

Girkin, a high profile Ruissian hardliner, has argued that total mobilisation is needed for Russia to achieve victory in Putin's war in Ukraine.

He recently criticised Putin as a “non-entity” and a “cowardly mediocrity," and faces up to five years in prison if convicted.

Moscow’s Meshchansky District Court ordered the 52-year-old to be held in custody for two months pending a probe on charges of making calls for extremist activities.

Igor Girkin, who also uses the surname Strelkov, in 2014. Credit: AP

Girkin rejected the charges, but asked the judge to place him under house arrest, citing health issues.

His arrest comes nearly a month after a short-lived mutiny launched by mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin that saw Wagner troops close in on Moscow.

Prigozhin agreed to end the short-lived rebellion under a deal that offered amnesty to him and his mercenaries and allowed them to move to Belarus.

The revolt posed the most serious threat to Putin’s 23-year rule, eroding his authority and exposing government weakness.

Like Prigozhin, Girkin has harshly criticised Russia's military leaders for incompetence, but he also denounced the Wagner Group's chief and described his action as treason and a major threat to the Russian state.

Mr Strelkov called Vladimir Putin a 'nonentity'. Credit: AP

Girkin served in the Russian military during the Chechen separatist wars and later joined the country's top domestic security agency, the Federal Security Service, where he reached the rank of colonel.

After he retired from service, he took part in the Kremlin's annexation of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula and then led fighters in eastern Ukraine during the first months of a Moscow-backed separatist rebellion there in 2014.

Last year, a Dutch court convicted him and two other men of murder in absentia for their role in downing Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 with a Russian surface-to-air missile, killing all 298 people aboard the Boeing 777 as it flew over separatist-controlled eastern Ukraine on July 17, 2014.

They were accused of bringing the Buk air defense missile system from a Russian military base into Ukraine and putting it into position for launch.

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