In a sweeping reorganization of Russia’s internal security apparatus, President Vladimir Putin has announced the creation of the National Guard – a powerful new paramilitary unit charged with combating terrorism and organized crime and maintaining social order
The new National Guard’s tasks, the president noted, will include those previously assigned to OMON and SOBR, tactical special rapid response forces whose functions include the maintenance of public order, assisting police (in a manner similar to SWAT in America), and maintaining order in the event of a state of emergency.
At the same time, the decree published on the president’s website explains, the National Guard will also be charged with assuring territorial defense, preventing and dealing with internal armed conflicts, and guarding important facilities, such as nuclear power plants, and cargoes, as well as the protection of other property. The federal body, according to the decree, will also work with the Federal Security Service (Russia’s main intelligence agency) in the protection of state borders.
The reorganization, Russian analysts have noted, is significant precisely due to the new body’s potential size and strength; the Internal Troops currently number about 200,000 men, and in addition to their other functions, they play an important role in maintaining law and order in the North Caucasus. The troops are fully motorized, have access to armored vehicles (though in smaller quantities than the army), and have their own aviation, engineering, marine and other formations as well.
In addition to the Internal Troops, the National Guard will ostensibly include territorial SWAT and riot police, as well as federal security guard services, totaling 230,000 people; all told, therefore, the new federal service will have up to 430,000 people under its command.
“Questions remain about the functions of the newly created security service – in particular, its possible acquisition of the powers of investigation, motivated by its tasks of fighting terrorism and extremism. [If this were to occur,] Russia, factually, will receive not only a new security agency, but also a new, full-fledged intelligence agency.”