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April 25, 2016 No.
6399

The Functions Of Russia's Newly Announced National Guard

On April 5, 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the decision to establish a National Guard for the country, that will be "formed on the basis of" the state's Interior Ministry Troops. Putin also announced that Russia's Federal Drug Control Service and Federal Migration Service would be incorporated into the Interior Ministry.

Putin made the announcement at a meeting with Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Interior Ministry Troops commander Viktor Zolotov, Federal Drug Control Service director Viktor Ivanov, and Federal Migration Service first deputy director Yekaterina Yegorova.[1] During the meeting, Putin stated that the new federal executive government body would fight terrorism and organized crime: "We are creating a National Guard, responsible for the fight against terrorism and organized crime, and, in close contact with the Interior Ministry, we will continue to perform the functions that were previously the responsibility of the OMON [Special Purpose Police Unit], SOBR [Special Rapid Response Unit], and other crack police units."[2] Regarding the fight against organized crime, Putin explained that the Federal Drug Control Service would be incorporated into the Interior Ministry, where it would operate "independently and self-sufficiently" but within the ministry framework.

The same day, Putin signed an executive order appointing Viktor Zolotov director of the Federal Service of National Guard Troops and commander of the National Guard Troops, and relieved him of his position as Interior Ministry Troops commander.[3]

The following are excerpts from an article detailing the functions of the new National Guard, as published on the website of the Russian media outlet Rbc.ru:[4]

Putin (center) at April 5 meeting with, left to right: Federal Drug Control Service director Viktor Ivanov, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev, Interior Ministry Troops commander Viktor Zolotov and Federal Migration Service first deputy director Yekaterina Yegorova. (Source: Kremlin.ru, April 5, 2016)

Use Of Firearms

"The National Guard, which is [to be] formed on the basis of the Interior Ministry Troops, will include all the special police forces (in particular, the OMON riot police and SOBR rapid deployment task force), and will be authorized to use firearms. According to the bill introduced by President Vladimir Putin, firearms may be used to protect citizens, free hostages, apprehend people who may have committed a grievous or extremely grievous crime, and prevent escape attempts. Guardsmen will also be allowed to use guns to raise an alarm. Finally, the National Guard will have the right to use firearms to counter an attack by military machinery, planes, or ships.

"Before firing a shot, a soldier will be obliged to issue a warning that he is from the National Guard and that he is about to shoot. Firing without warning will only be permissible if a delay endangers the lives and health of others. Shooting at pregnant women (the document mentions 'visibly pregnant' women), disabled people, and children is forbidden, unless they offer armed resistance. Opening fire in a crowd will also be prohibited, since random people may be hurt.

"These regulations correspond exactly to the laws for the police. The FSB [Federal Security Service, the main successor agency to the KGB] has broader powers: [in December 2015], the State Duma adopted, in an expedited manner, a law that allows FSB personnel to use firearms in crowded areas to thwart terrorist attacks or to liberate hostages.[5] Similarly, the use of firearms against women or minors is permitted if they have committed acts of terrorism."

Putin announces the creation of the National Guard. On right: Interior Ministry Troops commander Viktor Zolotov. (Source: Kremlin.ru, April 5, 2016)

Use Of Gas Grenades And Armored Vehicles

"National Guard troops will have the right to use physical force to stop a crime from being committed and to bring a detained person to the police. Guardsmen will also have special equipment at their disposal which they will be permitted to use to detain alleged criminals, to liberate hostages and buildings, to forcibly stop motor vehicles, and to hold off attacks against military towns, troop trains, and road convoys. Among the special devices whose use will be permitted are rubber truncheons, gas grenades, handcuffs, light/sound diversionary devices [such as flashbang grenades], devices designed to destroy obstacles [compact explosive devices],and equipment for stopping vehicles [road blocks]. In addition, the National Guard will have service animals. As with firearms, it will be forbidden to use special devices against pregnant women, disabled people, and children, unless they offer armed resistance. The National Guard will also have water cannons and armored vehicles, but these will be used only in counter-terrorism and military operations."

Detaining "Encroachers" For Up To Three Hours

"The National Guard will safeguard public order, fight extremism and terrorism, take part in the territorial defense of the country, patrol the border, escort special cargo, and guard important state facilities, as follows from the bill. National Guard troops will have the right to suppress crimes, inspect documents, draw up protocols for administrative offences, guard crime scenes until the investigators arrive, and detain curfew breakers, failed suicides, psychiatric hospital patients who have gone AWOL, and alleged criminals, including those who escaped custody. National Guard troops will be authorized to detain, for a period of up to three hours, people who encroach upon other people's property or secure facilities. They will also be authorized to conduct personal searches on such people and to check their cars."

Troops To Be Allowed To Enter Private Homes

"The National Guard will be authorized to search employees of nuclear power plants and to keep and destroy weapons that they find or are given to them by citizens. Guardsmen will also participate in disaster mitigation. National Guard troops will be allowed to enter private homes and other buildings to save civilians or detain alleged criminals. During disaster relief operations, anti-riot activities, searches for those who escaped custody, or the pursuit of fugitives, the National Guard will be permitted to seal off certain areas and restrict vehicle and pedestrian traffic. Currently, only the Interior Ministry troops, police, and the FSB have these rights."

Conducting Counter-Terrorism Operations

"During counter-terrorism operations, the National Guard will be authorized to restrict vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and to requisition and use cars to drive injured people to hospital or to pursue alleged criminals.

"According to the bill, the National Guard has no investigative powers. The functions of the National Guard will partially overlap with the functions of the FSB, says Mikhail Pashkin, head of the Moscow Police Workers Union. Talking to RBC, he notes that at the moment, the fight against terrorism is formalized in legislation as the FSB prerogative. 'You can't fight terrorism without investigative powers', Pashkin states, adding, 'If the National Guard carries out only the law enforcement tasks that the Ministry of the Interior, FSB, Customs, and others put before it, there shouldn't be any problems.'"

 

Endnotes:

[1] Kremlin.ru, April 5, 2016.

[2] Kremlin.ru, April 5, 2016.

[3] Zolotov (b.1954) headed Russia's Presidential Security Service rrom 2000 to 2013. On May 12, 2014, Putin signed an executive order appointing him first deputy interior minister and commander-in-chief of the Interior Ministry Forces.

[4] Rbc.ru, April 6, 2016. The original English has been lightly edited for clarity.

[5] On December 22, 2015, the State Duma passed a bill granting FSB officers more powers in using their weapons, authorizing officers to use firearms against crowds of people to prevent acts of terror, including taking hostages and perpetrating armed attacks on governmental buildings. (Themoscowtimes.com, December 22, 2015). On December 30, 2015, Putin signed a Federal Law regulating the legal foundations for the FSB's use of military equipment, weapons, special means, and physical force, including procedures and cases for their application. (Kremlin.ru, December 30, 2015).