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Russian National Guard soldiers and police officers patrol in downtown Moscow.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the introduction of "military-political work" in the country's National Guard, paving the way for Soviet-style ideological political education within its ranks.

A decree signed by Putin on September 21 gave no details about what the new practice would entail.

But it comes after National Guard (Rosgvardia) head Viktor Zolotov announced plans to introduce "an institute of military-political instructors" within Russia's federal service.

"We associate further development of moral and psychological support with the implementation of proposals worked out last year and supported by the supreme commander-in-chief on the creation of military-political bodies in the troops," Zolotov said during a National Guard board meeting in March.

The National Guard, formed in 2016 from Interior Ministry troops, is not part of the armed forces and answers to the president under his role as chairman of the national Security Council.

Zolotov, who holds the rank of army general, is a member of the Security Council and is seen as deeply loyal to Putin.

The new measure is the latest signal of a return to the indoctrination of troops with political ideology and propaganda, a practice that began in 1919 in Soviet Russia but ended with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In July 2018, Putin decreed the establishment within the Defense Ministry of a Military-Political Directorate.

The directorate describes itself as being engaged in "military-political propaganda and agitation"; "maintaining the moral and political state of the military"; and "the formation of an ideologically convinced personality of a serviceman."

Andrei Kolesnikov, a senior fellow and chair of the Russian domestic politics program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, has suggested that the amended law expanding the role of the National Guard could be seen as a "preparation for the revolt" in Russia.

"The Belarusian experience has been taken into account," he tweeted on September 21, referring to the large protests against Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka after a disputed election, and to the violent police crackdown that has ensued. "Military-political work" (i.e. incitement of hatred in the riot police against protesters) will begin at Rosgvardia."

With reporting by RFE/RL's Russian Service
Nasha Niva journalist Natallya Lubneuskaya (center) was shot in the leg while covering protests on August 10.

The editor in chief of Nasha Niva says the Belarusian newspaper has been told it faces a fine for failing to report to the authorities in a timely manner injuries suffered by one of its correspondents, who was shot in the leg by police during anti-government protests last month.

Officials "warned us that Nasha Niva should be fined because it didn't report the injury and didn't conduct its own investigation," Yagor Martsinovich wrote on Facebook on September 21.

Correspondent Natalia Lubnevskaya has spent 38 days in the hospital after sustaining the gunshot wound as she covered a mass protest the day after the August 9 presidential election that gave incumbent Alyaksandr Lukashenka a landslide victory, sparking opposition claims of a rigged vote.

Under Belarusian law, employers can face fines up to about $525 for failing to report on time a work-related injury or failing to conduct a probe into the incident.

Martsinovich said that the journalist's case was an unprecedented situation for the newspaper. He said they had been in contact with the authorities as they try to establish what documents they needed to submit.

Thousands of people have been detained and beaten by police amid the ongoing government crackdown over the protests.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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