After Wagner? How The Russian National Guard Could Become Putin's True "Personal Army"
A bill introduced to the Russian State Duma this week would allow the National Guard of Russia to receive tanks and other heavy military equipment and could turn the structure directly under Putin's command into a second army.
MOSCOW — For months, the Wagner Private Military Company was referred to as Putin's "private army." But after last month's Wagner uprising, the moniker might now be bestowed upon Russia's internal military force — the Rosgvardiya.
Established in 2016, the Russian National Guard, or Rosgvardiya, is the youngest military branch to be added to Russia’s security apparatus. Celebrated annually since 2017 on March 27 as National Guard Day, the distinct military unit acts independently from the regular military and consistently participates in Moscow’s Victory Day parades.
Rather than a fully equipped battle force, it is entrusted with protecting Russia's borders, controlling arms trafficking, combating terrorism and organized crime, protecting public order, and guarding state facilities.
On the Ukrainian border
Just two days prior to the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the Telegraph reported Rosgvardiya personnel was present on the Ukrainian border, perhaps ready to enforce the planned occupation of the country.
More than 15 months later, following the Wagner uprising in late June, Viktor Zolotov, the National Guard Director and Putin’s former bodyguard, asked the Russian president to provide heavy equipment to the Rosgvardiya.
On Monday, the State Duma, Russia’s parliamentary body, introduced amendments to the law governing the outfit. If enacted, the amendments would de facto equip the law enforcement agency — 340,000-members strong — with the same arsenal as the regular army.
Viktor Zolotov, head of the Russian National Guard Forces Command
On the face of it, the amendments to the law on the National Guard of Russia don't bring notable major changes. The terms "weapons", "equipment" and "combat equipment" used in the existing version of the law will be changed to the words "armament" and "military equipment."
It allows the transfer all types of weapons and military equipment to the Rosgvardiya "without ambiguity."
But military expert Yuri Fedorov told Agenstvo that while the term "combat equipment" can be understood as anything that can serve for combat operations, the term "armaments, military and special equipment" is more understandable and allows the transfer all types of weapons and military equipment to the Rosgvardiya "without ambiguity."
Alexander Khinshtein, one of the co-authors of the bill, explained the amendments would give the Russian Guard the right to receive heavy equipment, like tanks.
Thanks to the amendments, the National Guard will have the right to purchase military equipment and use it in its regular work, including for the protection of civil servants and to ensure public security in the event of mass riots. In addition, the Russian Defense Ministry will be obliged to supply military equipment to Zolotov's structure during counter-terrorist operations or states of emergency.
According to the bill's explanatory note, the Russian national guard will have at its disposal transport aircraft, combat helicopters, and armored personnel carriers in service. The authors of the bill argue that the law will now bring the current legal norms “in line with reality” and eliminate any gaps.
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