Purification ritual in the National Guard 

Purification ritual in the National Guard
Viktor Zolotov

Prior to the enrollment, all the guardsmen will be checked for relationship with security services, prosecutors, investigators, counterintelligence, and also affection for medical leaves.

Life.ru reports that Army General Viktor Zolotov, Director of the Federal National Guard Service, has requested the human resources to check all the personnel for conflict of interest. Lists of guardsmen having relatives in other enforcement, watchdog, or control services are currently being compiled. In addition, candidates having relatives in the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), Federal Security Service (FSB), or Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) will be enrolled only by Zolotov’s personal approval. This order has been already communicated to all National Guard personnel.

Officers of the former internal forces brigade of MIA based in Khabarovsk – Military Unit #6682 on Krasnaya Rechka (Red River) – conduct genealogical searches, study family archives and try to remember all relatives to the seventh generation. They are hopeful to join the National Guard. They all have fresh memories of their former commander who won’t become a guardsman anymore. On April 20, 2016 a military counterintelligence unit suddenly arrived to the brigade headquarters and busted the colonel in his office. The officer was taken to military investigators who charged him with abuse of power. This was a total surprise for everyone because the brigade commander seemed invincible: soldiers died in the brigade, incidents happened, but he was always able to come off clear. There were rumors that high-ranked relatives in special services sheltered the brigade commander.

Situations when relatives work in different security agencies are not rare. And of course, such relations directly affect certain cases handled by these agencies. 

"A major of MIA has beaten a colleague. An internal investigation began and then ended. A brawler’s relative also served in an enforcement agency and was a general. There are hundreds, if not thousands, such cases. One hand washes the other, especially when it’s a related hand," – one of ICR investigators says. 

But the National Guard will become an exception. There will be no invincible figures there: everybody must report relatives serving in watchdog, prosecution, and investigative structures. This includes parents (both own and spouse’s), children, brothers and sisters of both spouses.

"Human resources have an order to find out, as soon as possible, what guardsmen have relatives serving in MIA, FSB, Prosecutor’s Office and the National Guard as well," – a source familiar with the situation told Life.ru. – "Viktor Zolotov wants to purge the ranks of the new enforcement agency to ensure that its officers have no family relations with other security services".

Life.ru reports that the National Guard human resources service has to sift hundreds thousand people. First of all, they will be searching for proteges and potential "moles".

According to the Presidential Decree of April 5, 2016 "Establishment of Federal National Guard Service of the Russian Federation", the new structure will incorporate interior forces units from MIA, Special Work Assignment Team (SWAT), Russian Special Police Force, Special Center of Rapid Reaction Forces and Air Forces, extra-departmental guards, including Special Center for Extra-Departmental Security of MIA, and MIA units controlling weapons and commercial security sector.

"This is a huge army of 400 thousand people: 170 thousands from interior forces, 200 thousand from Extra-Departmental Security of MIA, some 30 thousand troops from MIA special forces," – a National Guard officer told Life.ru.

He said that whistleblowers must not be allowed to the Presidential Guard.

Фото: © РИА Новости/Кирилл Каллиников

Photo: © RIA Novosti/Kirill Kallinikov    

"General Viktor Zotov wants to fully trust each and every soldier, sergeant, or officer. He is a professional and needs to rely on those who serves together with him," – he says. – "There must be no traitors among "presidential guards". Therefore, whoever decides to be in one team with the general, must be understanding of the checks conducted by human resources".

Kirill Kabanov, Chairman of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, agrees. 

"Procedures in the National Guard relate also to the Decree of President Vladimir Putin of April 1, 2016 #147 "National Plan to Counter Corruption for 2016-2017"," – he says. – "It is corruption that causes conflict of interest. Any personal interest – either direct or indirect – affects of may harm appropriate, objective and unbiased performance of a state serviceman". 

He reminds that personal interest normally means obtaining various benefits and profits. According to the law, state employees must report such interests. 

"The National Guard is determined to abolish cronyism – when relatives serve in the same unit and subordinate to each other," – the Chairman of National Anti-Corruption Committee says. 

Kabanov does not rule out that National Guard human resources might get assistance from the Presidential Department for Combatting Corruption chaired by Oleg Plokhoi. This department is responsible for implementation of the Presidential Decree "National Plan to Counter Corruption for 2016-2017". 

A high-ranked MIA officer also believes that the National Guard implements a tough personnel policy to exclude any people with even slightly-tainted reputation. 

"The National Guard acts very wisely and reasonably, not like MIA, for example. First they carefully designed the structure, approved it with the Government and budget, and now it’s ready for the Presidential Decree," – he told. – "At the same time, personnel are selected and checked for the new structure". 

Formally, the National Guard is being created from scratch, therefore, selection criteria include reputation and family connections of candidates.

"This is a totally right idea to eliminate negligent staff, cronyism, and corruption. Similar efforts had been taken in some enforcement agencies, but normally everything was limited to recommendations," – the officer says. – "Human resources departments and interior security services tracked, when possible, family connections of candidates: asked who is mother, who is uncle, where are brothers and sisters. If, for example, a relative could directly affect performance of a serviceman or the whole unit, the candidate could be rejected".

If a person having relatives in investigation or counterintelligence is enrolled, this may cause serious issues. For example, it becomes possible to cover crimes in the unit, plot intrigues, stage acts of provocation, collect confidential information.

"It is convenient to handle your affairs through a relative; therefore blackmailing and intrigues are common. For example, watchdog officers approach the unit command and threaten: in exchange for our silence on detected violations, you give a promotion to my relative, or don’t interfere into a certain situation," – explains the officer. – "Or, following a request from a relative serving in another agency, the person makes an illegal decision on a certain matter".

Still, some experts doubt that such rigorous staffing policy will bring only positive results.

"Such methods do not necessarily bring results. Situation when the Director personally approves every candidate having relatives in other enforcement structures is not typical for our agencies. Why does the Director do this? From one side, this is against corruption, but from the other side – who can guarantee that this won’t lead to creation of Director’s "personal guard?" – experts from special services note.    

Фото: © РИА Новости/Кирилл Каллиников

Photo: © RIA Novosti/Kirill Kallinikov

Information on medical leaves taken by candidates during the last two years at the previous job is also of interest for the National Guard human resources. 

"If somebody spent lots of time on medical leaves, it says a lot of him," – a source says. – "This might be due to poor health – and such people are not needed; or he might be an offender or conflict person. People normally take sick leaves after a dereliction or conflict with superiors: such persons stay sick for long time because they can’t be dismissed or reprimanded in this period". 

Most probably, if a candidate is acceptable but has a record of medical absences, then human resources would request additional information from his previous place of duty.

Yuri Sinelshikov, Deputy of the State Duma and former Deputy Prosecutor of Moscow, also believes that this is how the National Guard cares of the personnel quality.

"Various tasks can be assigned to the National Guard; therefore, special personnel are required. If the President, for example, orders to combat corruption in law enforcement structures, how can a guardsman do this if he has relatives in other security agencies?" – Yuri Sinelshikov told Life.ru.

He believes that Russian enforcement agencies had never acted like this before.

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