Exploding the “Fifth column”

The Russian Guards buy armored vehicles, infrasound weapons and sticks to calm those who are against political stability in Russia

The second year in a row the commanders of the Russian Guards established in April 2016 declares that its troops are going to counter the “fifth column” and “revolutionary agitation” in this country. Its officers present at the anti-corruption meetings and detain their participants. To suppress the popular unrest in spring 2017, the Russian Guards purchased the “sound weapons”, arms and armored vehicles. What the Russian Guards might use against the unrest participants and where the confrontation has already begun, Anastasia Khlopkova reports.

Putin’s guards

“Those people are always on alert, they’ll never say “no”, never retreat, they’ll always stand till the end”, the documentary titled “Rosgvardia” (The Russian Guards) narrates.

The film narrates about “hard days of the national guard’s servicemen”. It was first broadcast on the Rossija TV channel on June 12, the Russia Day. That day, the Russian Guards were really working hard, detaining the participants of the anti-corruption meetings.

The Russian Guards Federal service was established on April 5, 2016. President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on creation of the new service on the base of the Interior troops, special riot police (OMON and SOBR) and federal extra-departmental security units. The Guards directly report to the president and their commander has been former chief of Putin’s bodyguards Victor Zolotov.

Russian Guards’ commander Victor Zolotov, photo –  pogranec.ru

For what purposes does Putin need the new corps? The Russian Guards’ servicemen revealed that themselves in the first year of their existence.

Commander of the Russian Guards in Altai region Alexander Maul said in December 2016: “The national guards have been established to counter the “fifth column” and “revolutionary agitation”.

“You all watched the TV and understand it well what’s going on. There is so-called fifth column, a number of so-called public organizations financed from abroad. Fortunately, there are no revolutionary agitation in Altai as widespread as in the capital currently”.

On June 16, 2017 Victor Zolotov said that the Russian Guards had been staying on alert to counter destabilization of the situation in the country.

“The protest actions are obviously systematic and undertaken according to the scenarios similar to the color revolutions in the other countries. The actual anti-corruption activity has been substituted with the general destabilization and creating of chaos. Under pretext of violations of democratic freedoms and rights in Russia, European, British, US mass media undertake permanent offensive aimed at discreditation of our country’s leadership”, he told the Interfax news agency.

He added that the Internet had actively been used to undermine stability in Russia, “cunningly and sophisticatedly utilizing sentiments of the good citizens”. So Zotov’s subordinates have been trained to fight at the enemy’s virtual territory.

Warriors of the Web

It is unknown how much the Russian Guards spend on fighting the fifth column. In the VK social net there are over 200 communities with up to 50, 000 subscribers calling themselves the Guards’ fan clubs.

“The Russian Guards is a platform which enables to comfortably set up contacts between the guards and the civil society. Its principal purpose is to create and sustain the Guards positive image”, one of the communities presents itself.

The news wires in those communities have been updated daily and often simultaneously. On June 18, the posting titled “Security or chaos, it’s your choice” appeared online. It said how the “provocateurs” had spoiled the Russia Day for the “peaceful citizens”, preventing the historical reenactment to take place.

“The rioters chanted slogans and sweared toward the police and OMON, climbed on trees, scaffolds and rooftops, jumped on balconies (private property). There were lots of children and teens aged 12 to 16 at those rallies. They chanted obscenities and drew the Russian flag with different slogans. The rioters behaved aggressively, while the Guards attempted to act maximally correctly explaining their actions to the rallyists”, the posting in VK and Facebook said.

No posting mentioned Alexei Navalny and anti-corruption activists, nor there is information about arrests of the “provocateurs”. The federal media reported that on June 12 over 850 people were detained in Moscow (Interior ministry admitted only 150) and 500 in St-Petersburg.

The social networks also publishes job opening in the Russian Guards.

Certain Pavel Yurdchenko invited via the VK the Russian citizens to join the OMON and Guards in Moscow, with the salary announced from 43,000 to 70,000 rub ($700 to $1100), with 28,000 rub paid as a housing allowance.

The job description contains protection of the public order and security during the mass actions and sporting events in cooperation with the criminal investigation service, economic crimes unit, traffic police and other law enforcement agencies.

The participants of those communities have been selling military uniforms. Ivan Shevchenko from Moscow offers an army gas mask for 7,500 rub and a plastic bullet-proof helmet for 14,000 rub. The Russian Guards in May 2017 bought protective helmets for 48,000 rub and 32,000 rub per piece via the state purchases online platform.

“Shepot” and armour

The Russian Guards have been preparing for the FIFA World Cup-2018 and presidential elections the same year. In April 2017, it purchased 50 sets of the Shepot (Whisper) non-lethal acoustic devices which paralyzes the rioters with infrasound impact.

The Shopot works similarly to the US Long Range Acoustic Device which generatesunbearable sound of 162 DB.

The Guards spent 86.7 mln rub to buy the Shopot. In 2016, the same equipment was purchased by the Interior ministry, 25 sets for 40.7 mln rub.

Yet in 2016, President Putin gave the Russian Guards a right to fire with no prior warning and use armored vehicles and water cannons “in the extremal situations” like opposition meetings or workers’ strikes.

On March 31, 2017 in the settlement of Manas in Dagestan the Guards surrounded the parking used by the long-haul truck drivers who were protesting against the Platon system of levying fees for the use of the highways. The Guards arrived in the armored vehicles to disperse the drivers. 

“They (the guards) undertake no actions and remain in reserve. They are armed but stay by the road shoulder so not to hamper traffic and they are ready to suppress the unauthorised actions”, the Russian Guards duty officer told the RBC on March 31.

Dagestan long-haul drivers and the Russian Guards

The Russian Guards did not use special anti-riot weapons against the drivers, as the agreement was reached, with only minor accidents had occurred: for example, someone tore a bumper and a wheel off one of the trucks and smashed windshields of three more trucks, according to one of the drivers.

The Russian Guards are going to proposes amendments to the law about the mass actions shortly. On June 22, the Presidential human rights council agreed to set up a working group to discuss those amendments with the Russian Guards and Interior ministry.

Flamingo, Federals and grenade launchers

In the first year of its existence the Russian Guards purchased no technical equipment. In 2016, the military unit 3798 in Murmansk bought a Flamingo motor boat for 5 mln rub and a Fregat speed boat for 7.2 mln rub. They were delivered in May 2017.

“In 2017, the modern weapons and special equipment designed for our tasks will be purchased, such as armored vehicles Tigr, Ural-VV, Ural Federal, Kamaz-based Gorets”, Zolotov said in March. The guards will also receive the modernized automatic guns and special armored vehicles.

“Federal” of the Russian Guards, photo – vk.com

In spring 2017, the Russian Guards held tenders on supply of the special armored and non-armored air conditioned vehicles, weapons and radio detection devices. For the new vehicles the Guards spent 1.2 mln rub, and 193.6 mln rub have been awaiting.

In April, the tender worth 211.9 mln rub took place, with four armored vehicles Yesaul (2.8 mn rub each) and 22 Federals (8.9 mln rub) on the bid. “Unlike the army version with the mine-proof seats, the Guards’ model has been equipped with regular benches”, the DRIVE2.RU says.

The Russian Guards also acquired eight Ural-VV armored vehicles for 99.8 mln rub (12.4 mln rub each). The Ural’s hull can protect the crew from bullets, land mines and handmade bombs. The Guards in Rostov region also ordered two transport armored vehicles BTR-80 for 32.7 mln rub. The troops also purchased four water cannons 110 VR Shtor for 79.2 mln rub (19.7 mln each),  two minesweeping vehicles for 84.6 mln rub, special technical support vehicle for 35.2 mln rub. In Stavropol, the tender on buying a special reconnaissance vehicle worth 107.1 mln rub has been expected.

Arrest of a protester on June 12, 2017, photo - Eugeny Feldman for Navalny’s campaign

The Russian Guards’ unit 5592 stationed in North Ossetia plans to buy 1448 unguarded aircraft missiles S-8KOM for 71.2 mln rub. The Guards have already had 200 new fire throwers Shmel (teste during the war in Afghanistan) with 80 square meters area of burst. The Shmel is designed to destroy covers and vehicles. The Guards paid 14.3 mln rub for them, 21.5 mln rub for 30 hand grenade launchers Nepryadva and 45.1 mln rub for 180 GM-94 grenade launchers.

The Russian Guards also signed contracts on purchase of 140 Kalashnikov machine guns for 27.1 mln rub, 1023 automatic pistols for 46.5 mln rub, 500 AK-150 and 500 AK-104 automatic rifles (for 12.3 mln rub and 10.8 mln rub in respect), 1000 Yarygin pistols for 18.3 mln rub, 100 VVS sniper rifles for 11.5 mln rub, 500 AS automatic guns for 50.7 mln rub, 6652 modernized AK-74, AK74M and AKS-74 for 66.1 mln rub.

It is difficult to say what of these arsenals could be used against anti-corruption activists.

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