The Problem with the Donbas

Igor Girkin, aka Strelkov, delivers a press conference on 28 July 2014 in Donetsk. (Source: BULENT KILIC/AFP via Getty Images) In 2014 Igor Girkin, aka ‘Strelkov’ (the shooter), became the face of the rebellion in Ukraine’s Donbas region against the new government in Kyiv. He was not actually Ukrainian, but a Russian with strong nationalist views, who enjoyed historical re-enactments of past Russian wars, and had worked for the FSB (the successor to the KGB). He was a veteran of the conflicts that erupted in the former Soviet Union after its collapse, including in Chechnya. In February 2014, after a popular movement had led the pro-Russian president Yanukovych to flee, Girkin helped to create the conditions for the annexation of Crimea before moving on to the supposedly Russophile Donbas, becoming the Defence Minister of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk Peoples Republic’.

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