Putin’s new National Guard – what does it say when you need your own personal army?


Zolotov, Putin’s Praetorian

The idea of creating a National Guard (NG) for Russia bringing together public security forces under a single command has been raised periodically and always abandoned for very good reasons, not least the lack of any apparent need to have a Praetorian Guard on steroids. In 2012, for example, I didn’t think it likely: it would upend the balance of power within the security agencies, create a monster, and not really meet any true security need.

So what does it say that Putin today announced that such a natsgvardiya was going to be formed? After a meeting with security luminaries include MVD Interior Troops commander (and new NG head) Viktor Zolotov – a trusted ex-bodyguard – he announced [my translation]:

Decisions have been made: we are creating a new federal executive body on the basis of the Interior Troops – creating the National Guard, which will handle the fight against terrorism, the fight against organised crime, and in close cooperation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, will continue to perform those functions which are [currently] performed by the OMON (riot police), SOBR (SWAT) and so on.

We will arrange, as we discussed with the Interior Minister [Vladimir Kolokoltsev], not only in the decree, but in a future federal law, so that there will be no discord in order to get everything working smoothly and clearly. I hope very much that the troops of the National Guard will effectively perform their tasks, as has been the case up now, and that they will strengthen the work on the areas that are considered priorities.

The NG will thus also take over the OMON and SOBR, making it a powerful paramilitary security force, with elements right across the country.

Meanwhile, the Federal Drugs Control Service (FSKN) and Federal Migration Service (FMS) will be brought under the MVD (Ministry of Internal Affairs), albeit remaining separate services. (Again, an idea which had been mooted before.) This may be a consolation prize for Kolokoltsev but appears, unsurprisingly, to have been a bitter pill for FSKN chief Viktor Ivanov, moving from independent director to ministerial subordinate.

The creation of a National Guard is a big deal. We await details, but here are a few first observations:

1. No discussion, no lead time. As with so many crucial decisions, this came essentially unheralded, underlining the extent to which policy comes from a small, tight circle around Putin. It is not just that they have good operational security; they also clearly see no reason to prepare the public in advance. This is just the way politics goes these days.

2. Big worries in a little circle. There is no real reason for creating the NG out of the Interior Troops (VV) and other forces unless you have a serious worry about public unrest. Let’s be clear, whatever Putin says the militarised security forces of the VV and now NG have little real role fighting crime or terrorism; they are public security forces, riot and insurrection control and deterrence assets. The OMON and SOBR do play a certain role, but detaching them from the investigations elements of the MVD actually reduces their value in fighting crime. (And the MVD will likely have to recreate some kind of SWAT forces of its own.)

3. Putin’s Own. The NG, as a federal agency, will be directly subordinated to the government, without a minister in the way. With Zolotov at its head, then it is even more clearly a personal, presidential Praetorian force, under a maximalist loyalist. This may not only be a force to keep the masses in check, but also the elite.

4. Upsetting the power ministry balance. In the past, there was a key desire to retain a degree of balance between the various security agencies. The MVD has now been weakened (and having the FMS and FSKN is by no means enough of a recompense), and the Federal Security Service (FSB) has a more direct rival in the domestic security stakes.

Postscript, 6 April: I see from the text of the law that FGUP Okhrany, the private security corporation of the MVD, is being transferred to the NG. This is a major blow to the MVD, as it made quite a bit of revenue for them. It also raises questions about the future of the Vnevedomstvennaya okhrana, the police’s private security department, which was often a good way for cops to do some paid overtime and eke out their salaries. Will they still be able to do this? If not, then that may well be a further encouragement to more petty and predatory corruption by cops seeing their real wages shrink (as bonuses have also already been cut) and options legally to make up the shortfall vanish…


Leave a comment


  1. Ming like

  2. Reblogged this on Andreas Umland.

  3. Dr. G,

    Consider this announcement in light of Putin’s remarks to the FSB board in February (i.e., most dangerous time for the State will coincide with the 2016 – 2018 electoral seasons (parliamentary and then presidential races). In such ways are “color revolutions” combatted. Moreover, coming on the heels of the Panama Papers announcements, it seems as much a statement of resolve as it does an active measure to ensure control.


  4. Thanks for the very interesting take on this new “Praetorian Guard.” The concern in the Kremlin seems to be rising, if they don’t even wholly trust their current security forces. One must also hope that the new National Guard kit does not include a broom and a dog’s head. If things really go south in the near future, Russia may be in for some interesting times indeed.

  1. Putin’s new National Guard – what does it say when you need your own personal army? » Radio Patapoe
  2. Kreml schafft neue Nationalgarde - Was Putin mit seiner "eigenen Armee" plant - Nachrichten von Heute - Nachrichten von Heute
  3. ZOLOTOV sera-t-il le BERIA de POUTINE ? : – antitotalitarismeblog
  4. The Morning Vertical, April 6, 2016 – What Is Said…
  5. Not suspicious at all… | Russia Without BS
  6. Putin's Personal Army - Mark Galeotti, In Mosco...
  7. Putin Just Created His Own Personal Army | The Daily Caller
  8. Putin skaffar egen armé på 210 000 man – Vikt!ga Vikt!ga
  9. Putin crea una "Guardia Nacional" a su servicio para mantener el orden público – Negocio Actual
  10. 07 avril 2016 – Vladimir Poutine reprend la main sur l’Histoire russe – L'info russe
  11. The National Guard in Russia | The Dilettante's Winterings The National Guard in Russia | On summer time
  12. Putin’s New National Guard Strengthens His Grip on Security as Russian Economy Falters | News4Security
  13. This is how the Russian police say they will put down mass protests | AFSDP
  14. This is how the Russian police say they will put down mass protests - Basit Takip
  15. What Does Own | Razeeti1
  16. How to Start a Russian Purge - Foreign Policy (blog) - Exchusme
  17. Putin’s new National Guard – What Does It Say when you Need your Own Personal Army?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: