Igor Girkin is a Russian citizen who became a media personality during the beginning of Russian aggression against Ukraine in 2014. Between April and August of that year he commanded armed gangs in the Ukrainian cities Sloviansk and Donetsk and for a short time served as “Minister of Defense” in the pseudo government of the self-declared “Donetsk People’s Republic.”
In August 2014 Girkin returned to Russia and has since tried to found a political movement and appeared on television multiple times.
For a course on the history of Ukraine that I took at Regensburg University in the Winter semester of 2014/2015 I wrote a short paper on the role Girkin played in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the possible reasons for his sudden return to Russia.
Girkin most likely is or was either an employee of or affiliated with the Russian military security service GRU. Much of the information about him and his activities are therefore not easily confirmed. The paper deliberates that there is reason to believe Girkin came to Ukraine as war tourist, backed by the Russian security service yet in effect independent, looking for yet another battle field where he could murder unpunished.
It is also possible, however, that he was ordered by the GRU to start an insurgency against the Ukrainian state in order to destabilize the country. I was unable to find out which of the two possibilities is more likely.
I was also unable to say with certainty why Girking left Ukraine. The possible reasons I discussed were:
1. Girkin had made himself impossible by committing multiple crimes, including murder.
2. The faction supporting Girkin lost out in a power struggle within the Kremlin.
3. Girkin was implicated in the downing of flight MH17 above Ukraine on July 17th 2014.
The text of the paper (in German) can be found here.