It's been just over a year since Putin established the National Guard as a domestic security force and placed it in the hands of his uber-loyal former bodyguard Viktor Zolotov.
And in that time, the guard has quickly taken on a mystique and a menacing aura, one that its top commanders have eagerly encouraged.
It has been compared to Ivan the Terrible's Oprichniki and Josef Stalin's NKVD -- and not just by its critics.
As rumblings of protest gather steam and as the elite gets increasingly restless, what role will the National Guard play as Russia enters what appears to be a tumultuous political season?
On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we'll look at the National Guard, its controversial leader, how they fit into the constellation of Russia's security services, and what we should expect from them.
Joining me is co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior researcher at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, head of its Center for European Security, and a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations; and military analyst Aleksandr Golts, editor in chief of Yezhednevny Zhurnal.
Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to The Power Vertical Podcast on iTunes.