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Russia’s National Guard – Reasons and Consequences

The formation of Russia’s National Guard simultaneously addresses a range of political and organisational problems.

Gordon Hahn

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On April 5th Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a series of presidential decrees “transforming” the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) into a new “Federal Service of the Troops of the National Guard” (Federal’naya sluzhba Voisk Natsional’noi Gvardii or FSVNG) and transferring the MVD’s 187,571 Internal Troops to the FSVNG and renaming them the National Guard or NG (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648 andhttp://echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/1742654-echo/). Putin appointed his long-time associate Viktor Vasilievich Zolotov as FSVNG director (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51646). He appointed Zolotov to head the MVD’s Internal Troops in October 2014. Although the formal transfer of these troops to the new FSVNG will not be completed until the beginning of 2018, the transfer is de facto already taking place with the formation of the new federal service and the requirement that the MVD coordinate with Zolotov as the transition proceeds and Zolotov now reporting directly to the president rather than through MVD chief.

In making this reorganization, Putin has addressed several problems facing him this year. I emphasize ‘several’ problems, since many analysts tend to focus on one cause to explain events, falling into a bias trap formed by their area of specialization  of study or political or interpretative prejudices or both. In particular, Putin has acquired some robust insurance against political threats both from above and from below.

Putin’s move accomplishes at least six tasks.

First, Putin both consolidated and thus strengthened the troops responsible for ensuring domestic law and order. This reduces the potential for inter-departmental tension, violent conflict, and armed clashes possible in conditions of potential greater instability.

Second, Putin has garnered more capacity to suppress any possible unrest or ‘color revolution’ being hatched around the September Duma elections. He now has more direct control for operations that might be necessary to contain public protests. Opposition forces might attempt to repeat the protests of winter 2011 against the results of the December 2011 Duma election results and spark a ‘color revolution.’ The West’s ‘dual-use’ technology of democracy-promotion aims to create critical masses within non-democratic societies capable of engineering regime change. Whether regime change occurs by way of reform ‘from above’, negotiated ‘transition’, or revolution is of secondary to no concern. Therefore, the color revolution threat in Russia is real. One can expect that in times of near catastrophic U.S.-Russian relations, the desire of many in Washington and Brussles for a color revolution in Russia is even greater. Putin knows this and is preparing to act accordingly. Of course, there is also the possibility that the Kremlin would be faced by a genuinely indigenous revolt not tied to Western patrons or models.

Third, in the FSVNG and NG Putin also has an instrument to protect himself and his loyalists from a less likely, albeit, palace coup. The pressures on the Russian economy, real and perceived foreign policy threats requiring high defense and security expenditures, massive corruption, and the resulting, slightly growing potential for a decline in Putin’s authority inside the regime could split the regime. The guard is added insurance against a regime split, palace coup, or other elite machinations.

Fourth, Putin’s reorganization wrested all siloviki located in Chechnya from the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov’s hands. Putin likely conditioned his renewal of support for Kadyrov’s re-election was probably conditioned on the latter’s willingness to surrender to Moscow full control over all MVD, now NG troops and Chechen presidential guard units. Although the MVD transitioned mostly federal control with Putin’s formation of federal districts in 2004 and to full federal control with Medvedev’s reforms, the reality is that in Chechnya and to perhaps some extent in some other powerful Russian regions the local authorities retained considerable control over the MVD branches in their regions. In Chechnya, Kadyrov appeared to have nearly full control over the MVD bodies there. The Kremlin had little choice to at least contain Kadyrov’s ambitions in this way, if it cannot risk attempting to remove him, given Kadyrov’s audacity, volatility, unpredictability, likely crimes, and yet stabilizing role not only in Chechnya but in many ways across much of the North Caucasus. Instability in Chechnya would likely to destabilize other regions of the North Caucasus, especially if the instability in question is jihadist or otherwise religious or supra-ethnic.

Ironically, one upshot of Putin’s move is that it might reduce stability in Chechnya. The reform could entail a purge of former Chechen militants who were brought into the MVD’s Internal Troops in Chechnya, including those brought in when the Chechen MVD incorporated into its internal troops in Chechnya some of the battalions consisting of former militants organized by Kadyrov and ostensibly subordinated to the MVD. Will some of these return to militant or criminal activity, destabilizing the region? Will Kadyrov’s removal from full control over the deployment of internal troops in Chechnya and the need to communicate with Moscow slow down deployment in an emergency counter-terrorism operation? Will Kadyrov’s weakened position allow Moscow to arrest the suspected organizer of Boris Nemtsov’s murder – Ruslan Geremeev, the head of the ‘Sever’ (North) Battalion, formerly subordinated to Kadyrov through the Chechen MVD? If so, how will local Chechens, including Kadyrov, react?

Another irony is that with the NG’s formation and MVD’s reorganization, Putin has acquired a loyal presidential guard not unlike that Kadyrov has possessed.

Fifth, by removing the Internal Troops so it might concentrate on standard police functions, Putin has taken another step in reforming the MVD first begun during Dmitrii Medvedev’s reforms, which have produced a slight improvement in the conduct of police in relation to citizens. Indeed, according to Novaya gazeta, the currently ongoing recertification of MVD personnel will be completed by 2018, whereupon all remaining personnel will be transferred permanently to the FSVNG (www.novayagazeta.ru/politics/72605.html). Simultaneously, Putin compensates the MVD by abolishing the Federal Migration Service (FMC) and Federal Service for State Control of Narcotics and transferring their functions to the MVD. This also involves a certain streamlining, since the MVD staff managing state control of narcotics will be 30 percent less than that under the abolished department (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51649). Transferring the migration control to the MVD also makes sense since monitoring immigrants and visitiors to Russia has long been a function shared by the MVD and FMS.

Sixth, by promoting Zolotov, one of his most faithful and long-time associates, into the very top ranks of the siloviki organs, Putin further consolidated his control over the siloviki and overall state apparatus. In 1991 Zolotov worked in the personal protection service in the Kremlin under Putin’s predecessor Boris Yeltsin and can be seen wearing the dark jacket standing behind and above Yeltsin’s chief bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov in the famous photograph of Yeltsin atop a tank declaring national resistance to the August 1991 hardline Soviet coup against USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev.

parked-russian-federation-picture-410

Zolotov then served in the body guard service of then St. Petersburg mayor and Putin mentor Anatolii Sobchak before becoming St. Petersburg deputy mayor Putin’s bodyguard. The well-informed editor-inchief of Ekho Moskvy radio, Aleksei Venediktov describes Zolotov as “extremely influential, extremely”—a person who “is not simply a member of his (Putin’s ) team but one who is personally loyal to him,… with whom (Putin) spends his free time, personal time. They played pool and went to meetings about which no one is to know, and answered directly for (Putin’s) safety in particular when he flew to Chechnya” (http://echo.msk.ru/programs/personalno/1742654-echo/).

Putin not only appointed Zolotov to head the new FSVNG and NG, but he also signed a decree making Zolotov a permanent member of Russia’s powerful Security Council (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51647). This was a personal, not an ‘ex officio’ appointment—that is, Zolotov was appointed to the Security Council; the position or officeholder of FSVNG director will not have the automatic status as a Security Council permanent member that several other high-ranking positions have. In addition, the FSVNG and Zolotov will be working closely with MVD and its chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev, and Zolotov now reports directly to Putin without, even just in theory, having to go through Kolokoltsev. Among the the FSVNG’s functions are the preservation of public order and security and implementing emergency situations. The decree stipulates that these two functions are to be carried out jointly with the MVD. Also, “operational subordination” involving the deployment of the mobile special OMON forces, the rapid response forces, special operations forces and aviation formerly belonging to the MVD will now be “established by the MVD with the agreement of the FSVNG director” (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648). Two years ago there were Moscow rumors and Western analysts predicting that Kolokoltsev, who is considered a moderate reformer, was soon to be fired and replaced by Zolotov. Thus, Putin has moved one of his most loyal clients into the important Security Council and simulataneously into functions where he can keep an eye on MVD chief Kolokoltsev, a functionary who is not from Putin’s Petersburg and siloviki circles.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Details from the Decrees on the FSVNG and NG

The presidential decree transfers the Internal Troops from the MVD to the FSVNG. These Internal Troops are now called the National Guard or NG. The FSVNG is part of the executive branch, which is headed by the president of Russia. It is led by a “Director,” and the service’s director is simultaneously the commander of the NG’s troops. The director will have six deputy directors, including a first deputy director who will simultaneously be Chief of Staff of the NG and a “state secretary/deputy director (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648).

The NG comprises just a part of the FSVNG and its troop formations. Also transferred under the FSVNG are the departments of the MVD formerly carrying out the functions now transferred to the FSVNG, including: the rapid reaction forces of the MVD’s territorial sununits; the MVD’s OMON (mobile special forces); the MVD’s Center for special operational response forces and aviation; the MVD administrations and other sub-departments exercising federal oversight over weapons trafficking, personal protection and government personnel security guard service, including the MVD’s Center for Specially Designated Government Personnel Security Protection, and the federal state unitary enterprise ‘Okhrana.’ The rapid reaction forces and special operational forces and aviation remain under the MVD’s operational command, however. The FSVNG’s functions include: preserving public and security and implementing emergency situations jointly with the MVD; counter-terrorism and securing the legal regime counter-terrorist operations; counter-extremism; territorial defense; protection of important state sites and special convoys; assisting the Border Troops of the FSB in protecting the Russia’s borders; monitoring compliance with Russian laws on weapons, private security activity, and extra-departmental protection (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648).

More information on the new service and Guard should be forthcoming once the Cabinet of Ministers determines the number of national guardsmen and drafts a statute as it has been instructed to do in Putin’s decree (www.kremlin.ru/acts/news/51648).

Submitted by Russian and Eurasian Politics Gordon M. Hahn
https://gordonhahn.com/2016/04/14/putins-golden-ticket-the-new-national-guard/

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Understanding the Holodomor and why Russia says nothing

A descendant of Holodomor victims takes the rest of us to school as to whether or not Russia needs to shoulder the blame.

Seraphim Hanisch

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One of the charges that nationalist Ukrainians often lodge against their Russian neighbors is that the Russian government has never acknowledged or formally apologized to Ukraine for the “Holodomor” that took place in Ukraine in 1932-1933. This was a man-made famine that killed an estimated seven to 10 million Ukrainians , though higher estimates claim 12.5 million and lower ones now claim 3.3 million.

No matter what the total was, it amounts to a lot of people that starved to death. The charge that modern-day Russia ought to apologize for this event is usually met with silence, which further enrages those Ukrainians that believe that this issue must be resolved by the Russian acknowledgement of responsibility for it. Indeed, the prime charge of these Ukrainians is that the Russians committed a genocide against the Ukrainian people. This is a claim Russia denies.

To the outside observer who does not know this history of Russia and Ukraine’s relationship, and who does not know or understand the characteristics of the Soviet Union, this charge seems as simple and laid out as that of the Native Americans or the blacks demanding some sort of recompense or restitution for the damages inflicted on these societies through conquest and / or slavery. But we discovered someone who had family connections involved in the Holodomor, and who offers her own perspective, which is instructive in why perhaps the Russian Federation does not say anything about this situation.

Scene in Kharkiv with dead from the famine 1932-33 lying along the street.

The speaker is Anna Vinogradova, a Russian Israeli-American, who answered the question through Quora of “Why doesn’t Russia recognize the Holodomor as a genocide?” She openly admits that she speaks only for herself, but her answer is still instructive. We offer it here, with some corrections for the sake of smooth and understandable English:

I can’t speak for Russia and what it does and doesn’t recognize. I can speak for myself.

I am a great-granddaughter of a “Kulak” (кулак), or well-to-do peasant, who lived close to the Russia/Ukraine border.

The word “кулак” means “fist” in Russian, and it wasn’t a good thing for a person to be called by this label. A кулак was an exploiter of peasants and a class enemy of the new state of workers and poor peasants. In other words, while under Communism, to be called a кулак was to bring a death sentence upon yourself.

At some point, every rural class enemy, every peasant who wasn’t a member of a collective farm was eliminated one way or another.

Because Ukraine has very fertile land and the Ukrainian style of agriculture often favors individual farms as opposed to villages, there is no question that many, many Ukrainian peasants were considered class enemies like my great grandfather, and eliminated in class warfare.

I have no doubt that class warfare included starvation, among other things.

The catch? My great grandfather was an ethnic Russian living in Russia. What nationality were the communists who persecuted and eventually shot him? They were of every nationality there was (in the Soviet Union), and they were led by a Ukrainian, who was taking orders from a Georgian.

Now, tell me, why I, a descendant of an unjustly killed Russian peasant, need to apologize to the descendants of the Ukrainians who killed him on the orders of a Georgian?

What about the Russian, Kazakh golodomor (Russian rendering of the same famine)? What about the butchers, who came from all ethnicities? Can someone explain why it’s only okay to talk about Ukrainian victims and Russian persecutors? Why do we need to rewrite history decades later to convert that brutal class war into an ethnic war that it wasn’t?

Ethnic warfare did not start in Russia until after WWII, when some ethnicities were accused of collaboration with the Nazis and brutal group punishments were implemented. It was all based on class up to that time.

The communists of those years were fanatically internationalist. “Working people of all countries, unite!” was their slogan and they were fanatical about it.

As for the crimes of Communism, Russia has been healing this wound for decades, and Russia’s government has made its anticommunist position very clear.

This testimony is most instructive. First, it points out information that the charge of the Holodomor as “genocide!” neatly leaves out. In identifying the internationalist aspects of the Soviet Union, Ukraine further was not a country identified as somehow worthy of genocidal actions. Such a thought makes no sense, especially given the great importance of Ukraine as the “breadbasket” of the Soviet Union, which it was.

Secondly, it shows a very western-style of “divide to conquer” with a conveniently incendiary single-word propaganda tool that is no doubt able to excite any Ukrainian who may be neutral to slightly disaffected about Russia, and then after that, all Ukrainians are now victims of the mighty evil overlords in Moscow.

How convenient is this when the evil overlords in Kyiv don’t want their citizens to know what they are doing?

We saw this on Saturday – taken to a very high peak when President Petro Poroshenko announced the new leading “Hierarch” of the “Ukrainian National Church” and said not one single word about Christ, but only:

“This day will go down in history as the day of the creation of an autocephalous Orthodox church in Ukraine… This is the day of the creation of the church as an independent structure… What is this church? It is a church without Putin. It is a church without Kirill, without prayer for the Russian authorities and the Russian army.”

But as long as Russia is made the “problem”, millions of scandalized Ukrainians will not care what this new Church actually does or teaches, which means it is likely to teach just about anything.

Russia had its own Holodomor. The history of the event shows that this was a result of several factors – imposed socialist economics on a deeply individualized form of agrarian capitalism (bad for morale and worse for food production), really inane centralized planning of cropland use, and a governmental structure that really did not exist to serve the governed, but to impose an ideology on people who really were not all that interested in it.

Personal blame might well lay with Stalin, a Georgian, but the biggest source of the famine lay in the structures imposed under communism as a way of economic strategy. This is not Russia’s fault. It is the economic model that failed.

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Mueller Finally Releases Heavily Redacted Key Flynn Memo On Eve Of Sentencing

Alex Christoforou

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Via Zerohedge


Having initially snubbed Judge Emmet Sullivan’s order to release the original 302 report from the Michael Flynn interrogation in January 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has finally produced the heavily redacted document, just hours before sentencing is due to be handed down.

The memo  – in full below – details then-national security adviser Michael Flynn’s interview with FBI agents Peter Strzok and Joe Pientka, and shows Flynn was repeatedly asked about his contacts with former Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak and in each instance, Flynn denied (or did not recall) any such conversations.

The agents had transcripts of Flynn’s phone calls to Russian Ambassador Kislyak, thus showing Flynn to be lying.

Flynn pleaded guilty guilty last December to lying to the FBI agents about those conversations with Kislyak.

The redactions in the document seem oddly placed but otherwise, there is nothing remarkable about the content…

Aside from perhaps Flynn’s incredulity at the media attention…

Flynn is set to be sentenced in that federal court on Tuesday.

Of course, as Christina Laila notes, the real crime is that Flynn was unmasked during his phone calls to Kislyak and his calls were illegally leaked by a senior Obama official to the Washington Post.

*  *  *

Full document below…

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Don’t Laugh : It’s Giving Putin What He Wants

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself.

Caitlin Johnstone

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone:


The BBC has published an article titled “How Putin’s Russia turned humour into a weapon” about the Kremlin’s latest addition to its horrifying deadly hybrid warfare arsenal: comedy.

The article is authored by Olga Robinson, whom the BBC, unhindered by any trace of self-awareness, has titled “Senior Journalist (Disinformation)”. Robinson demonstrates the qualifications and acumen which earned her that title by warning the BBC’s audience that the Kremlin has been using humor to dismiss and ridicule accusations that have been leveled against it by western governments, a “form of trolling” that she reports is designed to “deliberately lower the level of discussion”.

“Russia’s move towards using humour to influence its campaigns is a relatively recent phenomenon,” Robinson explains, without speculating as to why Russians might have suddenly begun laughing at their western accusers. She gives no consideration to the possibility that the tightly knit alliance of western nations who suddenly began hysterically shrieking about Russia two years ago have simply gotten much more ridiculous and easier to make fun of during that time.

Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the emergence of a demented media environment wherein everything around the world from French protests to American culture wars to British discontent with the European Union gets blamed on Russia without any facts or evidence. Wherein BBC reporters now correct guests and caution them against voicing skepticism of anti-Russia narratives because the UK is in “an information war” with that nation. Wherein the same cable news Russiagate pundit can claim that both Rex Tillerson’s hiring and his later firing were the result of a Russian conspiracy to benefit the Kremlin. Wherein mainstream outlets can circulate blatantly false information about Julian Assange and unnamed “Russians” and then blame the falseness of that reporting on Russian disinformation. Wherein Pokemon Go, cutesy Facebook memes and $4,700 in Google ads are sincerely cited as methods by which Hillary Clinton’s $1.2 billion presidential campaign was outdone. Wherein conspiracy theories that Putin has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government have been blaring on mainstream headline news for two years with absolutely nothing to show for it to this day.

Nope, the only possibility is that the Kremlin suddenly figured out that humor is a thing.

The fact of the matter is that humorous lampooning of western establishment Russia narratives writes itself. The hypocrisy is so cartoonish, the emotions are so breathlessly over-the-top, the stories so riddled with plot holes and the agendas underlying them so glaringly obvious that they translate very easily into laughs. I myself recently authored a satire piece that a lot of people loved and which got picked up by numerous alternative media outlets, and all I did was write down all the various escalations this administration has made against Russia as though they were commands being given to Trump by Putin. It was extremely easy to write, and it was pretty damn funny if I do say so myself. And it didn’t take any Kremlin rubles or dezinformatsiya from St Petersburg to figure out how to write it.

“Ben Nimmo, an Atlantic Council researcher on Russian disinformation, told the BBC that attempts to create funny memes were part of the strategy as ‘disinformation for the information age’,” the article warns. Nimmo, ironically, is himself intimately involved with the British domestic disinformation firm Integrity Initiative, whose shady government-sponsored psyops against the Labour Party have sparked a national scandal that is likely far from reaching peak intensity.

“Most comedy programmes on Russian state television these days are anodyne affairs which either do not touch on political topics, or direct humour at the Kremlin’s perceived enemies abroad,” Robinson writes, which I found funny since I’d just recently read an excellent essay by Michael Tracey titled “Why has late night swapped laughs for lusting after Mueller?”

“If the late night ‘comedy’ of the Trump era has something resembling a ‘message,’ it’s that large segments of the nation’s liberal TV viewership are nervously tracking every Russia development with a passion that cannot be conducive to mental health – or for that matter, political efficacy,” Tracey writes, documenting numerous examples of the ways late night comedy now has audiences cheering for a US intelligence insider and Bush appointee instead of challenging power-serving media orthodoxies as programs like The Daily Show once did.

If you wanted the opposite of “anodyne affairs”, it would be comedians ridiculing the way all the establishment talking heads are manipulating their audiences into supporting the US intelligence community and FBI insiders. It would be excoriating the media environment in which unfathomably powerful world-dominating government agencies are subject to less scrutiny and criticism than a man trapped in an embassy who published inconvenient facts about those agencies. It certainly wouldn’t be the cast of Saturday Night Live singing “All I Want for Christmas Is You” to a framed portrait if Robert Mueller wearing a Santa hat. It doesn’t get much more anodyne than that.

Russia makes fun of western establishment narratives about it because those narratives are so incredibly easy to make fun of that they are essentially asking for it, and the nerdy way empire loyalists are suddenly crying victim about it is itself more comedy. When Guardian writer Carole Cadwalladr began insinuating that RT covering standard newsworthy people like Julian Assange and Nigel Farage was a conspiracy to “boost” those people for the advancement of Russian agendas instead of a news outlet doing the thing that news reporting is, RT rightly made fun of her for it. Cadwalladr reacted to RT’s mockery with a claim that she was a victim of “attacks”, instead of the recipient of perfectly justified ridicule for circulating an intensely moronic conspiracy theory.

Ah well. People are nuts and we’re hurtling toward a direct confrontation with a nuclear superpower. Sometimes there’s nothing else to do but laugh. As Wavy Gravy said, “Keep your sense of humor, my friend; if you don’t have a sense of humor it just isn’t funny anymore.”

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