Date: 27 October 2017
Rosgvardiya will guard the bridge
Russian National Guards will form a naval brigade. Viktor Zolotov, the chief commander of Rosgvardiya, has announced that the task of the newly established unit will be to safeguard the bridge connecting Russia with the Crimea (currently under construction, via Kerch Strait). Zolotov has informed about the plan in his address to the Federation Council – the upper chamber of the Russian parliament. Entrusting the security of such an important structure to Rosgvardiya is yet another signal indicating that Kremlin has great trust in this relatively new formation.
Currently Russia has no land connection with the occupied Crimea. There is only a ferry connection through Kerch Strait. However, the construction of a long (19 km) bridge is already underway. The bridge is expected to be opened for vehicular traffic by December 2018, and a year later it will be opened for railway traffic. The idea to form a naval brigade to guard the bridge shows that for Russian authorities the greatest potential threat for the bridge may come from the sea, not from the land. One of the most important strategic structures in Russia is to be safeguarded by the National Guard – the formation seen by Vladimir Putin as a chief guarantor that he will stay in power.
The decree establishing the Federal Service of National Guard was issued by the president in April 2016. The Guard is a combination of military formation and intelligence service. Ultimately, the number of Rosgvardiya soldiers and officers will be 400,000. But what’s most significant, its commander is one Putin’s most trusted men, and the Guard remains under president’s direct supervision. Viktor Zolotov had been the head of Putin’s security for many years. The Rosgvardiya’s military core are former Internal Troops of the Interior Ministry (187,000 servicemen). It is a real army, with armament typical for regular troops, and with military structure. It has own air forces, artillery, armored forces and even its own navy. The National Guard has also taken over police special forces: OMON (20,000 people) and SOBR (5,000), plus ca. 170,000 officers of inter-ministerial security service. The main task of Rosgvardiya is to “combat terrorism and extremism” within the country. However, the Guard also has powers in the sphere of weapons turnover and the activity of private security companies.
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