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Putin Decrees 'Military-Political Work' For Russian National Guard

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