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World View: Putin Decrees Russian National Guard that Can Shoot or Arrest Citizens on Sight

This morning’s key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

  • Putin decrees new Russian National Guard that can shoot or arrest citizens on sight
  • Russia’s National Guard thought to be preparation for September elections
  • ‘Panama Papers’ scandal may have triggered Putin’s National Guard announcement

Putin decrees new Russian National Guard that can shoot or arrest citizens on sight

Putin decreed the establishment of a new National Guard on Thursday (Kremlin Press Service)
Putin decreed the establishment of a new National Guard on Thursday (Kremlin Press Service)

In a surprise announcement, Russia’s president Vladimir Putin decreed the establishment of a new National Guard force of 200,000 to 400,000 paramilitary security forces with the right to use physical force or firearms on citizens, and the right to enter homes or check documents and vehicles – all without warning or giving a reason.

The text of the law, as posted on the web site of the State Duma, contains the following:

Special powers (coercion): Detention, occurrence (penetration) into residential and other premises on land and territory; cordon (blocking) areas of land, premises, buildings and other facilities. …

The troops of the National Guard have the right to detain for the police persons suspected of committing a crime or administrative offense, as well as to detain in order to establish their identity to the police of other persons, detained for a period of not more than three hours and include office space troops of the National Guard prior to the transfer of police officials, to encroach on protected national Guard troops objects as well as objects and possessions national Guard troops, facilities and property of citizens and organizations regardless of their organizational and legal form and form of property. …

[In addition, they receive the right] to make a personal inspection of the said persons, inspection of vehicles and the things seized from them documents and items prohibited for storage and use; make inspection of vehicles, water craft (vessels), violated the rules established in the protected national Guard troops objects.

According to a statement by Putin, the National Guard troops are tasked with:

participation, together with Russia’s internal affairs bodies, in enforcement of public order, maintenance of public security and emergency rule, participation in the fight against international terrorism and ensuring the legal regime of counter-terrorism operation, participation in the fight against extremism.

However, many observers are claiming that the new National Guard is Putin’s personal army designed to give him all the powers of a total dictator. Moscow Times and Interfax (Moscow) (Trans) and Tass (Moscow)

Russia’s National Guard thought to be preparation for September elections

At the end of 2011 and in spring 2012, rigged Duma elections triggered mass antigovernment demonstrations in Moscow that had to be controlled violently. Now that new elections are scheduled for September of this year, it is thought that Putin announced the new National Guard in preparation for even larger anti-government protests.

Indeed, Putin’s presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Tuesday that “One can assume that, of course, [it will take part] in [suppressing] unauthorized [actions].”

According to Nikolai Petrov, a professor of political science at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia’s ruling regime, led by Putin, is at risk of collapse, mainly because its entire foundation has been undermined by the massive fall in international oil prices.

Petrov says that Putin has gained electoral legitimacy by generating nationalist feelings through his invasion of Ukraine and annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula. Putin’s actions in Syria and against Turkey have also roused public response.

But what’s changed in Russia is “the internal balance between the ruling élite,” because falling oil prices have squeezed Moscow’s budget:

Most importantly, shrinking government coffers have prompted more intense infighting among the ruling clans as each vies for their place in the sun. The problem is that the current system is based on ever-expanding revenues that provide enough for all. There is no functioning mechanism for resolving conflicting interests and redistributing property and incomes among contending groups. Each new situation requires an executive decision, which increases the frequency of conflict among the elite spilling over into the public eye — such as the sharp confrontation last spring between the leadership of the Federal Security Service and Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who heads his own siloviki force. Such clashes strain the system at the seams.

The main goal of these struggles is access to the crisis-stricken budget and the chance to curry favor with senior leaders. Therefore, parliamentary elections in September will be held against a backdrop of increased competition among the elite.

In other words, when oil prices were high and everyone and all the business leaders and regional politicians in the ruling élite had access to unlimited amounts of money, there was little conflict at the top. But September’s elections will create candidates with loyalties divided between Putin on one side and the élite business leaders and politicians on the other.

Putin’s approval numbers remain at record highs, despite the poor economy and rapid growth of mass poverty. But Putin’s creation by surprise decree of the new National Guard gives the impression that Putin believes that the internal threat to his regime is rising rapidly, and that steps must be taken immediately to control the threat. Tass (Moscow) and Moscow Times (22-Jan) and Jamestown

‘Panama Papers’ scandal may have triggered Putin’s National Guard announcement

Vladimir Putin was not mentioned in the massive leak of 11 million documents from a Panama-based law firm known as the “Panama Papers,” and TV stations have shrugged off the entire scandal, so it was considered surprising that Putin felt it necessary on Thursday to make special mention of the Panama Papers and to mock them at a forum for journalists in St. Petersburg.

Although Putin was not mentioned, some of his associates appeared in documents, implicated them in an alleged $2 billion money-laundering scheme. One of the names appearing in the documents is that of cellist Sergei Roldugin, an old friend of Putin and reportedly a godfather to one of his daughters. Media reports on the Panama Papers have said Roldugin holds hundreds of millions of dollars in offshore assets.

Another danger for Putin is that American officials are examining the Panama Papers to gather information on individuals who may be helping Russia to bypass sanctions.

Putin responded to the accusations on Thursday:

Our opponents are above all concerned by the unity and consolidation of the Russian nation, our multinational Russian people. They are attempting to rock us from within, to make us more obedient. …

I am proud to have people like Sergei [Roldugin] as friends. He has spent nearly all the money he has earned on buying musical instruments abroad and he brought them to Russia.

We always welcome it when somebody does things like that, but he has gone much further. I know that he has spent several months already on efforts to have the instruments registered as property of government-financed institutions.

Opposition leader Aleksei Navalny ridiculed Putin’s defense of Roldugin, saying that Roldugin’s offshore companies reportedly engaged in suspicious commercial contracts that netted him substantial profits.

However, other government officials said that the Panama Papers story was funded by the US Government and by George Soros, to attack Putin personally and to destabilize Russia.

Vladimir Putin’s National Guard announcement has surely been in the works for some time, but the fact that the announcement came suddenly, by surprise, suggests that Putin may have felt it necessary to make the announcement earlier than planned. The event that might have triggered that early announcement was the international “Panama Papers” scandal, revealing enormous alleged corruption in Putin’s government, which could possibly result in much greater and much early anti-government protests and riots. RFE/RL and Moscow Times and Russia Today and Moscow Times

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Russia, Vladimir Putin, National Guard, Dmitry Peskov, Nikolai Petrov, Panama Papers, Sergei Roldugin, Aleksei Navalny, George Soros
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