So, don't look now, but Vladimir Putin has just created his own personal Praetorian Guard.
The Kremlin leader announced yesterday that his former bodyguard, Viktor Zolotov, will head a newly formed National Guard force.
The force will absorb current Interior Ministry troops, the OMON riot police, as well as the SOBR -- or SWAT -- forces. And it will report directly to Putin.
But nobody really believes that is its purpose.
In fact, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov admitted to reporters that it could also be used to disband unsanctioned political demonstrations.
To put it bluntly, this is a very big (expletive deleted) deal.
As Russian security expert Mark Galeotti noted on his blog today, the idea of creating a National Guard has been floated in the past but was always dismissed because there was no obvious need for one and because it would upset the delicate balance among Russia's security services.
The only reason to create such a force now, to place it in the hands of one of Putin's closest confidants, and make it subordinate to the president alone, is that the Kremlin inner circle is very, very nervous about public unrest.
And this fear now overrides any fears about upsetting the delicate bureaucratic balance among the siloviki.
So now Putin has his own personal police force headed by his longtime bodyguard.
And Russia has just entered a new phase of personalized, paranoid, and unaccountable rule.
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