In 2016, Vladimir Putin formed the National Guard of the Russian Federation as his personal army. He put his longtime bodyguard and then security chief Viktor Zolotov in the lead. He met him when he was young, when he was deputy mayor of Saint Petersburg; they were united by, among other things, judo.
“It’s such a praetorian guard to fight the enemy within”, used an analogy to Imperial bodyguard in ancient Rome Pavel Felgenhauer, a Moscow-based military analyst. “It reminds me of the decline of the Roman Empire. We are witnessing an aging emperor appointing his bodyguard to lead everything.” Vice magazine quoted him in 2016.
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Kalashnikovs and helicopters
They parade in camouflaged uniforms during the shows, they also have heavier equipment – Mil Mi-8 helicopters, patrol boats, amphibious hovercraft, drones, demining robots, armored anti-mine vehicles… In their hands you can see, for example, grenade launchers, rocket launchers, the famous classic Kalashnikov AK-74 and modern AK-200, or sniper rifles.
Their number is said to have increased to 400,000 members. They were initially transferred from various agencies – the Ministry of Defense included OMON units (reminiscent of paramilitary gendarmes, today serves as riot police during protests) or rapid reaction police services (SOBR). For example, some paratroopers, members of the military police, the navy went from the Ministry of Defense…
Rosgvard’s tasks include internal threats, counter-terrorism operations, border guards and protection of strategic facilities. For example, it guards the new Crimean Bridge, the longest bridge in Europe, which connects the Crimean peninsula annexed to the Russian mainland since 2020, as decided by the State Duma.
“Most of these roles were played by the Ministry of the Interior and its bodies, which raises the question of whether the creation of Rosgardard was really necessary.” analyst Nickolas Bruetsch commented on The Security Distillery. “The second critical point is that Rosgvardija has unprecedented freedom and is not subject to external scrutiny. Because she reports directly to the president, critics are right to call her Putin’s personal police.” adds Bruetsch.
Alexei Navalny’s investigators have already shed light on corruption and the scholar in custody, according to the BBC, they discovered that the “praetorians” were feeding corrupt leaders substandard but overpriced food. In return, General Zolotov challenged Navalny to a duel on video and announced he would smack him like a steak.
Even before the invasion, it was clear from the footage from Russia that Antoine from the guards was taking part in “exercises” near the border with Ukraine, that is, in the preparations for the invasion. “Strong indication that Rosvard troops will be involved in the invasion”, Rob Lee, a military analyst at King’s College London, commented on Twitter.
Rather than conquering territory, guards should serve to maintain it, writes the Daily Telegraph. This could include the arrest or liquidation of Ukrainian government officials. Apparently, they also participated in the control of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant.