Power of the Siloviks Widens

By | July 15, 2017

On July 2017, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that expands the Federal Security Service (FSO) powers. The draft of the law was introduced in February of 2017 to the State Duma by Putin himself. Now the FSO is able to classify information about the property of the highest state officials. The text of the law is published on the official portal of legal information.

In addition, the FSO will be able to “temporarily restrict or prohibit the movement of vehicles and pedestrians on the routes of public security facilities”, as well as free use of airports, airfields, heliports, landing sites, sea and river ports.

At the same time, a number of restrictions are introduced for FSO officers. They will be required to undergo fingerprint registration. In addition, they will not be able to identify themselves as belonging to this service in the media and social networks, post photos and videos about themselves and their colleagues.

According to Ilya Shumanov, deputy head of the Transparency International, an international group of investigative journalists, the adoption of the new law will lead to information about the Russian President, Prime Minister, Prosecutor General, head of the Investigative Committee, the Speakers of the State Duma and the presidents of the Supreme and Constitutional Court, and their relatives will disappear from all public registers.

This law is one of several new laws that strengthen the power of the secret services. At the end of March, Putin signed a decree authorizing the FSO to make decisions on the seizure of land for state needs. Later, in May 2017, Putin signed a similar decree giving the right the Federal Security Service (FSB) to seize land and property “for state needs.”

Putin has also increased the power of the Rosguards (aka National Guards). On July 27, 2017, Colonel General Sergey Melikov, Deputy Director of the Rosguards, stated: “The troops of the National Guard today, according to the President’s decision, unlike the Internal Troops [of the Interior Ministry], will have the opportunity to carry out tasks outside of our country. Such tasks can be assigned to the troops. Hence [our] responsibility is not only the internal security of our state, but also the security of our citizens, as President put it, on long-range borders.”

It remains unclear how the Rosguard troops can operate outside of Russia.

Melikov also described actions of the Rosguards within the country: “If suddenly we see that some kind of event, whether socially political or provoked by aggressive football fans, or some radical elements, can lead to group violations of public order or go to mass riots and these actions can pose a threat to life and health of the population, of course, the Rosguards will stop these actions.”

Earlier Aleksandr Maul, commander of the Rosguards of the Altai Province, said that the Rosguard troops were created to fight the “fifth column”, “revolutionary fermentations” and public organizations financed from abroad, and that these troops are “a single fist” for hitting “revolutionary impulses.”

According to official data, the Rosguard troops are armed with pistols, submachine guns, machine guns, sniper rifles, armament to fight submarine sabotage forces and non-lethal weapons. Also, the structure has armored and special vehicles, as well as aviation. In March 2017, the Rosguards deputy commander Oleg Burkaev stated that the Rosguards will be additionally equipped with drones to monitor the situation in the places of mass actions.

According to the press, during the year since the creation of the Rosguards, its servicemen killed 125 alleged bandits in the republics of Northern Caucasus and destroyed 300 camps and weapon storages of local insurgents.

Author: Vadim Birstein

Dr. Vadim J. Birstein is a historian and geneticist. He is the author of over 300 scientific papers and books and has written two scholarly historical works, "The Perversion of Knowledge: The True Story of Soviet Science" and "SMERSH, Stalin's Secret Weapon: Soviet Military Counterintelligence in WWII". He received the inaugural "St. Ermin's Intelligence Book Award" in 2012 for SMERSH.

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