What is the real purpose of the president’s National Guard? 

What is the real purpose of the president’s National Guard?

Minister of Internal Affairs, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, explained the purpose of the National Guard: it would be responsible for the control of arms trafficking. Earlier the president claimed, that the new force structure would not duplicate any functions of the MIA’s internal troops.

On April 5, 2016, at the meeting with the MIA’s internal troops’ commander in Chief Viktor Zolotov, Vladimir Putin announced the formation of the National Guard. Minister of Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev and the head of the Federal Drug Control Service (FDCS) Viktor Ivanov also attended the meeting. Eventually, Zolotov was appointed a head of the new structure, which official name is Rosgvardiya. It is planned, that the National Guard would be formed based on the MIA’s internal troops and will focus on fighting terrorism and organized crime. What caught the media’s interest the most - was the fact that the Guard will report directly to the president.

However, while covering the news, many journalists missed the fact, that new powers (including permission to fire without warnings in case of large gathering of people) – are part of the powers, that internal troops, police and the Russian Federal Security Service employees already had. In other words, neither significant changes of the operational staff, nor operating principles of the law enforcement would be overviewed.

Nevertheless, there are at least three aspects, which show that the late changes in power structures – is a part of a well-known old governance system.

Nothing foreboded

Experts have noted the sudden and non-transparent pattern of the changes. Indeed, the changes seem rather sudden: without even explaining reason of such decision, the president changes the entire power system. Though in the early April, Vladimir Putin mentioned, that this theme had been previously discussed at some meetings. «We will implement one of the propositions», - added the president, although there were no messages about other propositions, apparently made by the of head of the Internal Affairs Vladimir Kolokoltsev and the head of the FDCS Viktor Ivanov.

You are aware of the fact, that we have been actively discussing questions, connected with the perfection of the law enforcement work and its force component. And we were discussing it, and we were thinking how to improve the work on all fronts, including the fight against terrorism, organized crime, illegal drugs and arms trafficking. In that context a lot of considerations, opinions were voiced; we extensively discussed it at the level of the Security Council, also recently. The decisions were made: we are forming a new federal executive body based on the MIA’s internal troops – a National Guard which will focus on fighting terrorism and organized crime. In close contact with the Ministry of Internal Affairs it will continue to perform functions, which have been earlier performed by subdivisions of the Russian Special Police Forces (SPF), SWAT and etc.
(Putin’s speech at the meeting with Zolotov, Kolokoltsev and Ivanov on April 5, 2016)

Journalists and internet-users discussed reasons for the National Guard’s creation in details. It was supposed, that the decision was aimed to distract the community from the Panamagate and that such measure was a general whim of a former security serviceman Putin, who is dissatisfied with the fact that structures in the government (and the internal army itself) report not to him. Russia’s leader was also ascribed envy to Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who has the most faithful and numerous guards.

Владимир Путин и Виктор Золотов

Vladimir Putin and Victor Zolotov

At the same time, all experts agreed, that the new «guard» reform will unlikely dispose of the police system shortages – corruption, bloated bureaucracy, low efficiency. It is connected with the number of population: the more citizens – the more police and thus the more red-tape.

How would it work

National Guard will consolidate the MIA’s internal troops and so loved by members of different protests SPF, which have its own structure and its own «generals». FDCS and Federal Mugration Service (FMS), which also its own subdivisions on local and regional levels, will also join the previous structures. They will not be ascribed any new responsibilities – it is supposed, that they will performe the same functions they did before. The joining of FDCS and FMS (drug control – entirely, while FMS – with 30% of staff reduction) could be named a return, as in olden time the federal services were separated from MIA.

About the duplication of functions

While explaining the necessity of the guard creation, Vladimir Putin mentioned, that with the help of the structure he is planning to liquidate duplication of functions and powers of different authorities. For example, those spheres that were controlled by the FDCS –fighting with narco mafia and drugs trafficking – have lately been included in MIA’s activity.

However things are tougher with FMS: this civil authority, as distinct from FDCS, was far more isolated, and its work in providing migration control as a separated agency was considered as a significant achievement. It is supposed, that its consolidation with the new power structure not only won’t work in its favor, but will also be harmful, because it will bring chaos to the efficient processes of the work with migrants, including the granting of working patents.

As for the rest, members of the National Guard will only have functions of the MIA’s internal troops, which will be included in the structure.

Ukrainian trace

From the very announcement of the future National Guard formation it has been compared with the People’s Commissariat of Internal Affairs (NKVD) troops and, what is more interesting, with Ukrainian power structures. As it is known, Ukraine has its own National Guard. The authors of 112.ua portal compared Russian and Ukrainian National Guards and came to a conclusion, that they are pretty similar.

Нацгвардия Украины

Ukrainian National Guard

However, there are some differences: the Rosgvardiya’s troops report directly to the president of the Russian Federation, who define its goals, tasks and staff size. Ukrainian National Guard is led by commander in Chief, while the head of the Ukrainian MIA is conducting the military-political and administrating management. In wartime the Ukrainian National Guard is transferred under command of the Ministry of Defense. Besides, in the Ukrainian structure it is allowed for foreigners to serve, while in Russia nothing like that was allowed yet.

Regarding functions, here two countries have a lot of similarities: both are designed to secure order at public events, fight terrorism and release hostages.

Rosgvardiya is allowed to revise documents, search transports, break into habitations and cordon off territories. The Ukranian structures fall within the paragraph of the Law «On the National Guard of Ukraine», according to which its members can conduct preventive and police acts, which include revising documents, citizens’ interrogation and breaking into habitations.

Though, unlike Russian Guard, Ukrainian is not allowed to beat pregnant women, disabled, elderly and children. In Russian law there is no such point. It worth to mention though, that in the Law «On the Police» exist restrictions on using physical force, non-lethal weapons and firearms in relation to the citizens mentioned above. Also Russian Guard is allowed to use non-lethal weapons, while in Ukraine for such cases there must be strong reasons, such as armed assault or hostage taking.

The possibility to open a fire, which was noticed by Russian media, is also stated in Ukrainian law. According to the Law «On the National Guard of Ukraine», fighter must warn about his intention to use non-lethal weapon, physical force or other weapon not less than twice, «except those occurrences, when delay may cause a real threat to life or health of the Ukrainian National Guard’s staff, police, or personnel of diplomatic mission» and so on.

Chechen trace

Media wrote a lot about suspicion, that National Guard formation in connected with Putin’s concerns about personal army of Ramzan Kadyrov. Lawyer Petr Zaikin in his interview to the Novaya Gazeta said, that this measure would leave regional authorities without an influence over internal troops.

«Corresponding decree of the Russian president, took all basic force structures, the most trained and armed in terms of military operations conduction (SPF, SWAT, Terek, Extradepartment Protection Directorate’s regiment)ones, from under the Chechen leader influence. [In Chechnya] these power structures, technically registered as a part of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, were initially in large percentage composed of former gunmen, on the principle of personal fidelity to the head of Chechnya», - explained the lawyer.

Zaikin also added, that after the National Guard formation, it would be impossible to recruit former gunmen in Chechen internal affairs bodies with the approval of Kadyrov.

Золотов и Кадыров

Zolotov and Kadyrov

Later, the federal force structures and Chechen leader often had confrontations, especially in spring 2015. Then because of the special operation conducted by the Stavropol police on the Chechen territory, died Djambulat Dadaev, who, according to media, was hiding in the republic from possible revenge for an assault on businessman Magomed Tazirov. Kadyrov underlined, that approval of the operation was not coordinated with Chechen law enforcement agencies and demanded to initiate criminal cases against Stavropol security servicemen. At the same time he allowed officers of Chechen MIA to fire in policemen from other regions if proved necessary.

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