Igor Girkin, a former Russian military intelligence officer who is now widely known as the head of a powerful mercenary organization, has made a number of moves in recent weeks that suggest he is preparing the ground for a potential political advance.
Girkin, who is better known by his nom de guerre Strelkov, has been at the forefront of the Russia-backed separatist forces in eastern Ukraine since the conflict began in 2014. He was one of the most influential figures in the rebel-held areas, and was widely seen as the de facto leader of the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic”.
In recent weeks, Girkin has made a number of moves that suggest he is positioning himself to transition from military leader to political figure. He has launched a new political party, the “People’s Militia of Novorossiya”, and has posted numerous messages on his social media accounts calling for a “Greater Novorossiya”, a reference to an old Tsarist-era term for a region that includes parts of Ukraine and the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
Girkin has also been making the rounds in Moscow, meeting with prominent Russian politicians and public figures. He was even invited to speak at a Kremlin-backed think tank, where he discussed his views on the conflict in Ukraine.
It remains unclear what Girkin hopes to achieve with his newfound political ambitions. He has made it clear that he is opposed to the current authorities in Ukraine, but it is unclear if he has any concrete plans for how to overthrow them.
Whatever Girkin’s ultimate goal may be, it is clear that he is positioning himself to become a major player in Russian politics. With his popularity among the separatists in eastern Ukraine and his ties to the Kremlin, Girkin could be a powerful force in Russian politics for years to come.