National Guard of Russia
|National Guard of Russia|
Национальная Гвардия России
Natsionalnaya Gvardiya Rossii
|Common name||National Guard|
Patch of the National Guard of Russia
Logo of the National Guard of Russia
|Formed||April 5, 2016|
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Legal jurisdiction||Russian Federation|
|Governing body||Security Council of Russia|
|Elected officer responsible||Vladimir Putin, President of Russia|
|Agency executive||Viktor Zolotov, Director|
|Parent agency||Security Council of Russia|
The Federal National Guard Troops Service of the Russian Federation, FSVNG RF (Russian: Федеральная служба войск национальной гвардии Российской Федерации, ФСВНГ РФ; Federalnaya sluzhba voiysk natsionalnoiy gvardii Rossiiyskoiy Federatsii, FSVNG RF), also known as the "Russian Guards" (Russian: Росгвардия; Rosgvardiya), is an internal security corps organized along military lines of the Russian Federation. The new federal executive body was established in April 2016 by a decree signed by President Vladimir Putin to secure borders, take charge of gun control, combat terrorism, organized crime, protect public order and guard important state facilities. The decree was converted into law on 22 June 2016, which was signed by Putin himself on 3 July 2016. The corps is directly subordinated to the President of Russia under his powers as Supreme Commander-in-Chief and Security Council Chairman.
Plans to create a National Guard directly subordinated to the president were reported in April 2012, when it was assumed by some journalists that the National Guard would be formed to ensure the security and protection of the constitutional order on the basis of Russian MVD and other security agencies, including at the expense of the forces and means belonging to the Russian Airborne Troops, Air Force, Navy and the military police, as well as elements of EMERCOM of Russia; the reform of security apparatus had been since the 1990s.
The establishment of the Russian Federal National Guard Service reportedly caused turmoil in the Kremlin due to the fact the National Guard displaced several duties and functions normally carried out by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, with Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov stating that Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev did not resigned; spokesman Peskov also denied that the establishment of the National Guard meant a crisis of confidence in the so-called "siloviki" and stated that the Federal Guard Service would retain its competences; however, he did not comment on whether the then-incumbent heads of the Federal Drug Service and the Federal Migration Service, which in the same days underwent a major reform with their subordination to the Interior Ministry, would retain their posts.
According to Russian government-owned news agency Sputnik, on 18 May 2016 the National Guard and Chinese People’s Armed Police signed an agreement in order to hold joint tactical exercises, from July 3 to July 14 in Russia's Moscow and Smolensk regions.
On 5 April 2016, President Putin created the National Guard of Russia by a Presidential Decree (Executive Order) - a legal act having the status of a by-law.
On 6 April 2016, President Putin submitted to the State Duma (the lower house of parliament of the Federal Assembly) the draft framework law for this new executive body titled "On the Russian National Guard Troops" along with its corresponding amendments that contains a provision for the protection of pregnant women, children, disabled persons and crowds that states:
It shall be prohibited to use firearms against women with the visible signs of pregnancy, people with the apparent signs of disability and underage persons, except for the cases when such persons put up armed resistance, make an assault involving a group of attackers or commit another attack threatening the life and health of citizens or a National Guard serviceman, and it shall also be prohibited to use firearms at largely crowded places, if their use may casually hurt people.
On 9 May 2016 the National Guard paraded for the first time. 400 National Guardsmen of the ODON Ind. Motorized Division of the National Guard Forces Command, Federal National Guard Service of the Russian Federation "Felix Dzerzhinsky" formed part of the 2016 Moscow Victory Day Parade.
On 18 May 2016, State Duma approved the first of the three readings of the draft law establishing the National Guard. On 22 June 2016, State Duma approved the last of the three readings of the draft law, thus establishing the National Guard; the Federation Council soon followed.
Establishment process phases
Presidential press secretary Peskov told reporters that the National Guard started operations before the legal basis for its work was actually finalized.
According to Federal National Guard Service Director and National Guard Forces Director Viktor Zolotov, the formation of the Russian National Guard is to take place in three stages. The first phase sees the transformation of the Interior Troops, of the OMON units and of the SOBR units (previously framed within the Politsiya) into National Guard units. The second step involves the elaboration of the troops' organizational and staff structure, harmonizing regulations and assigning specific tasks. Finally, the third phase envisages the completion of all the organizational activities and the beginning of execution of the tasks entrusted.
Organization and leadership
The National Guard of Russia is directly subordinated to the supreme commander-in-chief (i.e. President of Russia) with the incumbent head of this new structure included into the Security Council as a permanent member.
The National Guard is to take over many of the existing duties of the special police forces thus eliminating the link on their use that previously existed between President Putin and his Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev.
In a major overhaul of Russia’s security agencies, the National Guard which will include Interior Ministry troops, servicemen of the Russian Armed Forces (including paratroopers, air force, navy and military police), and (as proposed in 2012) Ministry of Emergency Situations personnel (such as fire fighters and rescue workers) consisting of both conscripts and contract personnel and will take over functions previously managed by the OMON riot police and SOBR rapid-reaction forces. In turn, the Federal Migration Service (FMS) and the Federal Drug Service (FSKN) are to be incorporated into the structure of the Interior Ministry.
In operation, the National Guard is expected to number some 350,000 to 400,000 men. However, as of May 2016 the Russian government did not propose the size of the forces actually needed. The establishing Presidential decree points out that the transformation process should be completed by 1 June 2016.
As for personnel policies, on 20 April 2016 FNGS Director Zolotov stated that the National Guard of Russia is to exclude the appointment of employees with low moral and professional qualities who have committed defamatory acts.
The National Guard of Russia is organized into a composed structure, consisting of six broad elements:
- National Guard Forces Command (Войска национальной гвардии), which handles the operational units (formerly belonging to the Interior Troops);
- National Guard Special Operations and Aviation Center, including Zubr, Rus e Yastreb special units;
- National Guard SOBR and OMON Units;
- Administrations and other departments exercising federal oversight over weapons trafficking, personal protection and government personnel security guard service, including the Center for Specially Designated Government Personnel Security Protection (formerly belonging to the MVD);
- The federal state unitary enterprise "Okhrana".
According to the establishing presidential decree, the Federal National Guard Service (FNGS) is part of the executive branch, which is headed by the president of Russia. The Federal Service is led by a "Director", and the service director is simultaneously the commander of the National Guard Forces Command (NGFC). The director has six deputy directors, including a first deputy director who is simultaneously be Chief of Staff of the National Guard and a "state secretary/deputy director"; the Head of Legal Department is Major General Sergei Babaitsev.
On 5 April 2016, Viktor Zolotov, the former commander of Russian Interior Troops, and the former head of the Russian President's personal security service, was appointed as Director of the Federal National Guard Service and Commander of the National Guard Forces Command and relieved of his previous duties—and by a separate Presidential Decree was appointed a member of the Security Council too, in a personal capacity.
On 20 May 2016, newly promoted Colonel General Sergey Chenchik was appointed as Chief of the General Staff and First Deputy Director of the Russian Federal National Guard Service. General Chenchik has reportedly a significant role in the North Caucasus security system since late 1990s; according to Valery Dzutsati, Chenchik’s appointment as deputy head of the National Guard indicates that his approach to security problems is approved.
The territorial organization consists of seven Regional Commands which have, as a rule, the same name of the relevant Federal district. An exception is the Eastern Regional Command, which handles military units stationed in the territory of the Far Eastern Federal District, as well as the North Caucasus Regional Command, which included in its area of responsibility both Southern and the Crimean Federal Districts. In total, 7 Regional Commands are created out of 9 Federal Districts; these Regional Command have the same boundaries, names and headquarters of those of the former Internal Troops. Each Regional Command is further subdivided into Brigades.
The Regional Commands are:
- Central Regional Command - headquartered in Moscow
- North-Western Regional Command - headquartered in St. Petersburg
- Volga Regional Command - headquartered in Nizhny Novgorod; commander: General-Lieutenant Alexander Poryadin
- North Caucasus Regional Command - headquartered in Rostov-on-Don
- Ural Regional Command - headquartered in Yekaterinburg; commander: General-Lieutenant Sergey Kornyushkin
- Siberian Regional Command - headquartered in Novosibirsk; commander: General-Lieutenant Viktor Strigunov
- Eastern Regional Command - headquartered in Khabarovsk; commander: General-Lieutenant Sergey Gonchar
The National Guard units have the same equipment the Internal Troops used before. In May 2016, the Ministry reportedly purchased 120 of RPO-A Shmel. According to Moscow Times, the rocket launchers were likely intended for the National Guard; according to Gazeta.ru, also a tender for machine guns was announced by the Ministry. According to Interfax, the assault rifles AK-74 and AK-74M will be the primary service weapons of the Russian National Guard, while special operations units attached to the National Guard are armed with AS Val submachine guns. Other weapons include weapons against underwater sabotage forces and non-lethal weapons.
The National Guard, as of April 2016, was reportedly romoured to acquire «Bozena Riot» remotedly operated armoured vehicle, designed to handle riots and mobs in the streets and urbanized areas. The following month, i.e. May 2016, the corps was also scheduled to receive new armoured vehicles: the «Patrol» vehicle is a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicle, used primarily as a mounted infantry troop carrier and ground support vehicle.
The main publication of the National Guard of Russia is the magazine "In the line of duty". The full-colour magazine is published for the Internal Troops of Russia since 1958 and it is stated to cover matters of service activity of the corps, as well as history and literature.
Missions of the National Guard of Russia include joint operations in securing borders (in assistance to the border protection bodies of the Federal Security Service) fighting terrorism, organized crime, and to perform the functions which are currently carried out by riot police units (OMON, SWAT, etc.), as well as prison police units. However, according to laws, the National Guard does not perform field investigation activities. The Federal Service also received powers in the sphere of weapons turnover and control of private security activities.
According to President Vladimir Putin, a major area of responsibility of the National Guard is the overseeing the various kinds of security provisions and the authorization system of the right to possess firearms, the oversight of private security firms and the management of the interior troops proper.
Until the final approvation, it was not yet clear whether these forces will be taking part in counter-terrorism operations abroad, with different open sources reporting different assessments, but, according to the draft presidential decree, it was expected to get the right to interact with competent bodies of other countries, including training relationships. According to some pro-Ukrainian sources, National Guard units were in May 2016 already in Donbass in order to prevent desertion of Novorussian soldiers.
Specifically, the National Guard is controversially allowed to fire into crowds in a select number of situations, such as terrorist incidents, hostage situations, or if a government building secured by the National Guard comes under attack, although the soldiers are forbidden in all circumstances from shooting at pregnant women, children, or people with disabilities. Troops can also use physical force against direct threats to members of the public or fellow soldiers, special cargoes, structures along communications lines protected by National Guard troops and the National Guard troops’ facilities, as well as open and search cars, check for identification documents and detain citizens. The National Guard also can seal off areas, including for the purpose of preventing mass riots.
In a state of emergency, the National Guard personnel have the right to ban the traffic of vehicles and pedestrians, use citizens’ cars to arrive at the scene of an emergency situation or chase criminals, enter houses, use force, special means and weapons.
According the establishing law, National Guard troops exercise their activity on the basis of the principles of legality, the observance of the rights and freedoms of an individual and a citizen, single authority and centralized control.
According to Gordon M. Hahn, the rapid reaction forces and special operational forces and aviation of the National Guard remain under the MVD’s operational command.
Evolution of the proposed powers
In April, the National Guard was expected to be vested with the right to request federal, state and local authorities, officials and citizens documents, reference and other materials required for decision-making on the issues referred to their spheres of activity, as well as to suspend or limit in emergency situations the use of any communications networks and communications means, and also to exercise the right to the priority use of these communications networks and communications means.
According to the draft provisions, the National Guard would to be allowed to shoot without warning if delay in using them (firearms) could create a direct threat to the life or health of a citizen or National Guard soldier. According to the same draft provisions, the corps cannot exercise armed force against pregnant women, disabled people and minors, except for self-defence and other exceptional situations, although it will be authorized to block cars and pedestrians in extraordinary situations and use citizens' motor vehicles to come to the scene of an extraordinary event or chase criminals.
According to an amendment passed into the draft law, a serviceman of the National Guard has no right to use weapons in a crowded area, excluding the use of weapons in order to prevent terror attack, freeing hostages, repelling a group or armed attack on important state objects or cargos. Under similar conditions, the legislative amendments granted the National Guard the right to search individuals' vehicles.
Domestic and international reaction
The establishment of the Russian Federal National Guard Service triggered several domestic and international reactions and assessments, with attempts to interpret and explain the move, ranging from power games to plans to prevent colour revolutions.
State Duma reactions
On the first reading of the draft law, held on 18 May 2016, ruling party United Russia, nationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and A Just Russia backed the establishment of the National Guard, with A Just Russia MP Mikhail Yemelyanov holding that there is no reduction of democracy in Russia.
On the other hand, Communist MP Vyacheslav Tetekin said that the Communist Party of the Russian Federation does see a link between the move and the bad conditions of the Russian economy; according to Tetekin, assigning all combat units to a separate structure would critically weaken the Interior Ministry and that assigning to the National Guard the task to license private security firms had nothing to do with countering terrorism and extremism.
National Guard as an element of power games
With the timing of President Putin’s creation of this National Guard force coming ahead of the 2016 parliamentary election to the State Duma in Russia, and crashing oil prices, Pavel Felgenhauer, an independent military analyst based in Moscow, said this new force is ..a kind of Praetorian Guard to deal with the internal enemy and further stated It reminds me of the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. We see an aging emperor appointing his bodyguard chief of everything."
Mark Galeotti, professor at New York University's Center for Global Affairs, wrote in a post on his blog, In Moscow's Shadows that [National guard] forces have little real role fighting crime or terrorism; they are public security forces, riot and insurrection control and deterrence assets.
Konstantin Gaaze, a Moscow-based political analyst and journalist with the Carnegie Moscow Center, said this new force was linked to the election cycle and that Putin wants to make sure the situation that took place on the Maidan, in Ukraine, won't happen in Russia. Gaaze further said that Putin's creation of the National Guard created a counterbalance not only to the Federal Security Forces, but also to the army itself and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stating: The newly established National Guard is the president's army in the literal sense of the word. An army, which can be used without intermediaries in the form of a defense minister and without the constitutional rules on the use of the Armed Forces.
Ella Paneyakh, senior researcher for the Department of Political science and Sociology at the European University at Saint Petersburg, said that this new National Guard force was not just another law enforcement agency, but another army that had the right to conduct military operations against the country's citizens.
Russian political scientist Gleb Pavlovsky, who heads the analytics department of the Center for Political Technologies (CPT), said Putin's creation of the National Guard was to counter the power of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov.
Tatiana Stanovaya, who heads the Center for Political Technologies (CPT) in France, in commenting on Viktor Zolotov's appointment to head the National Guard said: The unnecessary link, that of a minister between the commander-in-chief and the head of the National Guard is removed. Whoever the minister is, a brother, friend, classmate or judo coach, his hand may tremble when you need him to execute an order. Zolotov is protected from those fluctuations as much as possible.
Researcher Gordon M. Hahn, for The Duran, deems the probability of a "palace coup" as being minor than other scenarios. In this view, the National Guard is an added insurance against a regime split, palace coup, or other elite politics. Another "power game"-related reason may be, according to Hahn, the will to reduce power of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.
National Guard as a tool against strategic destablization
According to Roger McDermott for The Jamestown Foundation the establishment of the National Guard is intended in order to counter Colour revolutions and links foreign and domestic threat assessments as part of a seamless web. McDermott links the origins of the corps to experience acquired during internal crises and power games among key actors in the 1990s, as well as to colour revolutions abroad, especially close to the Russian borders and in Middle East. In this view, the 2016-2017 election cycle in Russia supplied domestic context for the timing of the implementation of the 2016 reform aimed to counter a strategic threat, but the deep reason does not lie into the actual elections.
Italian economist and businessman Giancarlo Valori holds a similar viewpoint to that of McDermott, insofar he deems the National Guard as intended to relieve Russian internal and foreign Intelligence Services of a whole range of traditional and routine tasks related to the internal security, in order to obtain a more geostrategic intelligence. In this view, the main stability threats are Islamist terrorism, imported jihad and Colour revolutions.
Gordon M. Hahn lists as the top-two reasons behind the establishment of the National Guard the possibilities of inter-departmental tension, violent conflict, and even armed clashes possible in conditions of potential greater instability and Colour revolutions or indigenous ones.
Official comments of Vladimir Putin
Russian President Vladimir Putin, during a televised debate, denied the mistrust in current security establishment: according to him, the direct subordination to the President comes from the fact the National Guard has the authority of a ministry, and as a power ministry it reports to the President.
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