Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia · Ukraine

Former DPR Igor “Strelkov” Girkin Claims His Bodyguards Were Monks

Strelkov aka Girkin

Igor Ivanovich Strelkov, born Igor Vsevolodovich Girkin, made a statement yesterday which is dubious and reflects poor judgment if true.  

Girkin, as you may recall, was the self-proclaimed leader of the Donetsk Peoples Republic, which is located in Donbas, Ukraine. Girkin was later proven to be an FSB Colonel. Girkin also claimed to have shot down MH17 and later the same day deleted the statement from his VKontakte account and claimed the account was never his.  A logical extrapolation of these facts is that the FSB put Strelkov in place with a pseudonym of Girking, shot down MH17, and supported terrorist operations in Donbas.

Now he is claiming his personal bodyguards were comprised of monks from the Sviatohirsk Lavra, an Orthodox Church religious site. The Sviatohirsk Lavra is a part of the Ukranian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate, which is the Russian Church with mostly Russian clerics – Moscow is the head office for this church. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Kyiv Patriarchate is the Ukrainian Church with mainly Ukrainian clerics.

This is interesting for a few reasons. 

First, some of the monks may have had military experience with the Ukrainian Army as conscripts prior to the Russian invasion but had no special training. Therefore Girkin’s personal bodyguards were not up to the standards that an FSB Colonel should have had in a combat zone. 

Sviatohirsk Lavra

Second, the timing of this announcement teases the tenuous relationship between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is being granted autocephaly from the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Sviatohirsk Lavra.  Is this statement designed to create a rumor designed to exploit a perceived but not yet real division within the Ukraine Orthodox Church, a la Russian Orthodox Church predictions?  It makes sense, but let’s not make any conclusions just yet. At the risk of the monks within the Sviatohirsk Lavra, Girkin’s statement could be a source of pressure for them to break away from the Ukraine Orthodox Church. 

The flag of the Russian Orthodox Army; a paramilitary group in Ukraine.

A third interesting thing to consider is the possible presence of the Russian Orthodox Army, ROA, a militant group formed, again, after the Russian invasion of Donbas. It makes sense that his bodyguards came from the ROA.  Interestingly, an official US State Department report notes that,

“the ROA has been noted of “kidnapp[ing], beat[ing], and threaten[ing] Protestants, Catholics, and members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church… as well as participat[ing] in anti-Semitic acts.”   

– source: International Religious Freedom Report for 2014

Another interesting thing to consider, in light of this behavior, is ‘How is this different from radical Islamist clerics recruiting for ISIS?’  The operations in Donbas have long been considered terrorist activities by the Ukrainian government. Is the Sviatohirsk Lavra de facto recruiting on behalf of the terrorists supported by the Russian government in Donbas?

One more consideration is that Russia stored weapons at the Sviatohirsk Lavra, under the auspices of the Russian Orthodox Church. They had weapons caches at  Sviatohirsk Lavra prior to 2014.  From 2014, Russian Orthodox Church supporting war in Ukraine. More recently, from 2018, Sviatohirsk Lavra Of UOC-MP Sheltered Militants And Arms, Says General-Mayor Of Ukrainian Armed Forces

Bottom line, Girkin’s announcement seems to serve no purpose other than to manipulate the perception of the Sviatohirsk Lavra as aligned with the DPR, or Russia. This is quite possibly a form of Russian information warfare designed to be one of a thousand cuts, a la Lingchi, focused at dividing up the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Girkin seems to have surrounded himself with the lowest quality bodyguards possible.  Was he suicidal, arrogant, or just plain stupid?  

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Former DPR leader Girkin claims his personal security was made up of monks from Sviatohirsk Lavra

Saturday, October 13, 2018 4:00:00 PM

The former leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, separatist Igor “Strelkov” Girkin stated that the monks of the Holy Dormition Sviatohirsk Lavra actively participated in the conflict in the Donbas. He admitted that his personal security was fully made up of spiritual servants, monks and hieromonks of the Sviatohirsk Lavra.

“It [the security team] was not very big but anyway they were there. A novice of the Sviatohirsk Lavra commanded one of the units in the Slavic brigade. And this novice has a serious but household status in Lavra,” Girkin said. He also said that Orthodox people in so-called Novorossiya (New Russia) were convinced that they were doing the duty for their faith when they followed the Donbas militants.



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