The Federal Protective Service (FSO): Putin’s Praetorian Guard

1.0 Introduction

The Federal Protective Service (also known as the FSO) is one of Russia’s internal security services. Alongside its role in protecting the Kremlin and the President himself, the organisation also engages in other tasks integral to preserving the security and stability of the Russian state. 

2.0 Motto, Anthem, Emblems And Patches

With an atypical motto, anthem, emblems and patches, the Federal Protective Service is easily identifiable. 

2.1 Motto 

The FSO’s motto is “Fatherland, Devotion and Honor”. This motto is not unique to the service and is claimed by the Kremlin to have been an ethos which has “guided the soldiers and officers of the Russian army“. (Source) (Source)

2.2 Anthem

According to the website of the FSO, the service also has an anthem. The 3-minute and 13-second anthem even has a music sheet of it included on the service’s website. Broadly speaking, the anthem’s lyrics underscore the organisation’s loyalty and its importance in protecting both the Russian state and the Kremlin. (Source)

The music note sheet for the Federal Protective Service’s Anthem

2.3 Emblems

The FSO employs a range of emblems as an organisation to distinguish itself. These include the following:

2.3.1 Organisational Emblem Of The Federal Protective Service

Sharing some similarities with the emblems of many other Russian internal security organisations, the FSO has its distinct emblem. The emblem consists of a gold double-headed eagle and a shield in front of the sword with a Russian tricolour on it. 

Like with the emblem of the Rosgvardia, the shield likely represents that the FSO is an internal security element. Moreover, it emphasises that the FSO is a protection force for the President and Russia, also explaining why the Russian tricolour is on the shield. 

Commonly used within Russian military and security organisational emblems, the gold double-headed eagle in the background emphasises that the FSO is subordinated to the Russian Federation. The sword behind the shield represents the ability of the organisation to fulfil combat roles. Additionally, it reflects that the organisation has predominantly land-based units at its disposal. (Source)

Emblem of the FSO

2.4 Patches

FSO personnel can be seen wearing a few unique patches which include the following:

2.4.1 FSO Organisational Patches

Being the FSO’s most common patch, the tactical and non-tactical variant of the organisational patch can often be seen on its personnel.  The patch matches the emblem of the organisation. Notably, the tactical variant of the patch is light green, dark green and regular green, while the latter is in the original colours of the emblem. (Source

The tactical and non-tactical variants of Federal Protective Service patches (Source) (Source)

2.4.2 Presidential Regiment Patch

One of the FSO’s most esteemed units, the Presidential Regiment, also has its patches. The difference between the patch of the Presidential Regiment is not very significant. However, as well as having a regular emblem and background, the patch also includes a ribbon with the words “Presidential Regiment” (Президентский Полк) above it. (Source) (Source)

A Presidential Regiment serviceman with the patch of the Regiment on his shoulder

2.4.3 The Special Purpose Unit Of The Presidential Security Service

Within the already prestigious President Security Service is a special purpose (Spetnaz) unit that also has its own patch. On the emblem, a sword goes through the letters ‘УСН’ and a transparent shield. Though a dark and light green variant of the patch is known to belong to the unit, it is unclear whether a non-tactical coloured version exists. (Source)

3.0 Organisation

A successor to numerous security organisations before it, the FSO occupies a central role in Russia’s national security. To enable it to carry out this role effectively, it utilises a range of organisations for which the requirements to join are significant.

3.1 History Of The Federal Protective Service

The FSO is a byproduct of its predecessor organisations such as the KGB’s 9th Directorate and the Presidential Security Service (SBP) since its integration into the FSO. Therefore, it’s crucial to note the history of both the formation of the FSO in 1996 and the aforementioned organisations. 

3.1.1 The 9th Directorate Of The KGB

Formed in 1954, the 9th Directorate Of The KGB was central to determining the roles and functions of the FSO today. The 9th Directorate was responsible for the protection of prominent party officials, government leaders and their families within the USSR. Eventually, the organisation was replaced by the Security Service of the President of the USSR in 1990. (Source) (Source)

Notably, the 9th Directorate provided security for numerous notable Soviet leaders, such as Brezhnev, Kruschev and Gorbachev. Whilst ensuring their safety during travel and public events, the 9th Directorate also watched over them during holidays. They also scouted locations before Soviet officials arrived and drafted evacuation plans for them. (Source)

It is believed that to serve in the 9th Directorate, individuals had at least 3 years of prior experience in other security service organisations. On top of that, candidates looking to join the 9th Directorate also needed to have high recommendations from their supervisors. Most likely, this constituted a range of high requirements needed to serve within the organisation. (Source)

3.1.2 The Presidential Security Service Before FSO Integration

Succeeding the Presidential Security Service of the USSR, the SBP was established in 1991 under the Main Directorate Of Security (GUO). Shortly after, the organisation became an independent entity in 1993. The organisation was designed to provide intelligence, law enforcement and security functions to the President and his family, alongside key buildings. (Source) (Source) (Source)

Unlike the 9th Directorate, the SBP was provided with its own Special Purpose Centre (SPC) during its formation, leading to it having a Spetnaz unit. This showed a marked increase in the capabilities provided to personnel carrying out essential roles on behalf of the Presidential Administration of Russia. (Source)

When the FSO was established in 1996, the SBP was absorbed into its structure, which originally was an entirely independent organisation. Surely after this took effect, Yeltsin made the head of the SBP, Alexander Vasilyevich Korzhakov, in charge of the FSO. Moreover, the SPC and its Spetnaz units were also integrated into the organisation. (Source) (Source) (Source)

3.1.3 The Formation Of The FSO 

The FSO’s formation was a direct result of the ‘Law of the Russian Federation On State Protection’ passed in 1996. Officially, the organisation’s parent agency is the Presidential Administration of Russia, which makes it directly subordinate to the Russian Head of State. (Source) (Source)

Surely after this took effect, Yeltsin made the head of the SBP, Alexander Vasilyevich Korzhakov, in charge of the FSO. The SPC and its Spetnaz detachments were made a part of the FSO but stayed subordinate to the SBP. Also, the initial head of the SPC, Rear Admiral Gennady Zakharov was replaced when it was integrated into the FSO. 

Since its creation in 1996, the FSO has conducted a range of intelligence, security and policy-making functions. As well as providing security to the President and other important officials, the FSO has also guarded important locations and memorials. In this sense, the FSO’s internal structure created key organisations to fulfil the criteria of such diverse roles. (Source) (Source) (Source)

3.2 Organisations Within The Federal Protective Service

The FSO has various organisations to carry out its essential functions. They include the following: 

3.2.1 Commandant’s Office Of The Moscow Kremlin

The Commandant’s Office Of the Moscow Kremlin (COMK) is a part of the FSO and the Russian Defence Ministry’s Military Police. The main role of the organisation is to ensure the security of the Kremlin, be it within its interior or exterior. This includes the protection of the Kremlin’s museums, work staff, key monuments and its visitors. (Source) (Source) (Source)

Arguably the COMK’s most notable element, the Kremlin Regiment is vital to it. Compromised of four infantry battalions, a cavalry battalion and a Presidential band, the Regiment is responsible for carrying out both ceremonial and security functions. Using honour guards from its 3rd Battalion, the Regiment also protects Lenin’s Mausoleum & Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (Source)

During parades, it is often only the ceremonial cavalry of the Kremlin its cavalry battalion which gets to represent the FSO. Other units of the Regiment are typically relegated to their site security roles or are responsible for the safe escort of the President. Its personnel can be identified based on their distinct uniforms and their ‘Presidential Regiment’ patch. (Source) (Source)

Presidential Regiment personnel lined up within the Kremlin (Source)

3.2.2 The Presidential Security Service After FSO Integration

After the SBP’s integration into the FSO in 1996, the organisation continued to provide security for the President of Russia. It is the most secretive element within the FSO and has worked under the strict direction of Vladimir Putin since its formation. According to some sources, it is even possible that the unit monitored Medvedev when he was President at the behest of Putin. (Source) (Source)

Given its crucial role in Russian security, the requirements for joining the SBP’s ranks are higher than that of most FSO elements. SBP personnel are required to know at least one foreign language. Additionally, they are expected to have extensive training, the right psychological profile for the role and a good prior security service record. (Source

The SBP is expected to guarantee the security of the President at all times. Essentially, this means that the SBP is equipped to provide security when the President is both outside and inside Russia. Additionally, the President can task the organisation to guard other officials or conduct activities in the realm of law enforcement and intelligence.  (Source

As mentioned earlier, the SBP also has a highly equipped and well-trained special-purpose unit. Trained and housed at the SPC, the unit is afforded a range of Russian and Western equipment to fulfil its role successfully. To protect the President, this Spetnaz is trained to assist with the provision of security in any environment, be it naval, aerial or land-based. (Source) (Source)

3.2.3 Academy of the Federal Security Service of Russia

The FSO Academy succeeded the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information’s (FAPSI) Academy in 2004. Like its predecessor organisation, the FSO Academy acts as both a higher educational institution and training officers in the following specialities:

  • Communication networks and switching systems
  • Multichannel telecommunication systems
  • Radio communications, radio broadcasting and television
  • Information security of telecommunication systems;
  • Automated information processing and management systems.

Those who complete the 5 years training period at the academy gain a diploma, the rank of lieutenant and engineering qualifications in one of the aforementioned specialities. Whilst the FSO Academy is mainly based in the city of Oryol, its subdivision, the Institute of Government Communications (branch) Academy of the FSO is located in Voronezh. (Source) (Source)

The FSO Academy also provide training and contributes to research. Though the FSO Academy has trained thousands of FSO personnel, many of its personnel have gone on to research and designed weaponry for the Russian state. This makes the FSO Academy a notable contributor to Russian security and military innovation. (Source) (Source) (Source)

Picture of the FSO Academy located in Oryol City, Oryal Oblast, Russia. 

3.2.4 Special Communications Service

A crucial component of the FSO’s informational security (InfoSec) and technological innovation, the  Special Communications Service (SCS) plays an important role within the organisation. In essence, the SCS is responsible for the secure transfer of classified information between government agencies, military, and law enforcement organizations within Russia. (Source)

The SCS has focused on the development of encrypted communications that operates without the need for foreign technology or services. To prevent InfoSec breaches that lead to hostile governments gaining access to secret information, the SCS maintains and develops fully natively constructed systems of communications. 

Aside from just protecting informational security, the SCS also monitors the communications of criminal, terrorist and hostile espionage elements. In gathering such signal intelligence (SIGINT), the SCS can enable the FSO and other organisations to exploit it for their gain. This enables them to disrupt unlawful elements and better plan operations against them. 

Additionally, The SCS is also a hub for technological and informational innovation. The organisation has been instrumental in the development of artificial intelligence and cloud technology. Whilst utilising these tools for InfoSec improvements, the SCS has also made it easier for various state organisations to process information and identify emerging threats. (Source) (Source) (Source)

3.3 Place Within The Russian Security Nexus

Due to the FSO’s diverse internal organisational structure and its role, it occupies a wide-ranging position within the Russian security nexus. Presently, the FSO engages in law enforcement, intelligence and security functions. As well as providing security to the Russian President at all times, the FSO also takes on numerous ceremonial functions when needed. 

3.4 Relation To Other Organisations

Since the FSO fulfils a mix of intelligence, security and law enforcement functions, it has to cooperate with a range of other Russian organisations. For instance, the FSO and the Federal Security Service) often cooperate with another to protect the President. FSO personnel are also trained by the FSB in risk analysis, tactics and site security. (Source

Understandably, the FSO could also work with other intelligence and internal security organisations. For instance, the MVD and FSO could coordinate in carrying out law-enforcement activities within Moscow. Additionally, the FSO and FSB may operate jointly when planning security for the President’s visits outside of Russia. 

The secretive nature of the FSO’s activities and how it cooperates with other organisations make it difficult to understand how closely they work with one another. However, the FSO claims to cooperate with other organisations if their tasks revolve around the security of the President. In turn, such collaboration can take the form of intelligence, security and law enforcement (Source)

3.5 Key Figures

To understand the FSO’s most influential past and present figures, examining the following individuals is important:

3.5.1 Dmitry Konchev

According to open sources, Dmitry Kochnev has been the director of the FSO since 2016. Initially, Kochnev worked in law enforcement agencies from 1984 to 2001. He joined the FSO in 2002 and rose to the role of deputy director of the FSO and head of the SBP in 2015. A year later, Kochnev became the Director of the FSO, replacing Evgeny Murov. (Source)

Rumours circulated that Kochnev handed in a resignation letter for his role and was going to be replaced by Oleg Klimentyev. However, according to the news organisation responsible for the rumour garnering attention, Ruskiya Gazeta, this was an error in their reporting. For now, Kochnev appears to still be the Director of the FSO. (Source) (Source)

During his time as director of the FSO, Konchev is believed to have become wealthy by Russian standards. Estimates suggest that from 2016 to 2021 Konchev’s annual pay alone increased from 8.5 million rubles to 13.65 million rubles. Some reports suggest that he accumulated more wealth than the directors of the FSB and SVR. (Source) (Source)

3.5.2 Alexey Rubezhnoy

Alexey Rubezhnoy is currently the deputy director of the FSO and the head of the SBP. He attained the rank of Major General in 2018 and previously served within the ranks of the KGB (now FSB) Alpha Group. Rubezhnoy may have connections to the Night Wolves, a state-backed motorbike gang currently placed under US sanctions since the annexation of Crimea in 2014. (Source) (Source) (Source)

Unfortunately, little available information exists on Rubezhnoy and further details about his present role in the FSO. 

3.5.3 Yevgeny Murov

Although Yevgeny Murov is no longer a member of the FSO, he was a Director of the FSO from 2000-2016. Murov was only replaced as Director by Konchev in 2016 because he was too old to continue in his role. After his retirement, he was appointed as Chairman of the Board of Directors at the state oil company Zarubezhneft (Source)

Like Konchkev, Murov also had an extensive career in Russian security services before becoming an FSO Director. Publicly available information indicates that served in the KGB from 1971-1991, mostly within the First Main Directorate. From 1992-2000, Murov served in the FSB and was its First Deputy Head of the Department of Economic Security in the last 2 years of his role. (Source) (Source)

According to Russian media, Murov became a part of Putin’s inner circle in 1997 when he met Vladimir Putin and his close ally Nikolai Patrushev. This potentially explains why Murov was reported to have such a secure position in the FSO before retiring. It may also explain why the FSO was reported to have a generous budget and little constraint under his directorship. (Source) (Source)

3.6 Recruitment 

Information concerning the recruitment requirements, methods and remuneration and other benefits of service is difficult to obtain. Yet, some sources shed light on these details when it comes to the FSO and its recruitment process. 

3.6.1 Methods Of Recruiting

Perhaps because of the large volume of applicants it gets, the FSO seems to utilise a limited set of recruitment methods. Prospective recruits likely plan their career in other organisations just so they can eventually join the FSO. This explains why, unlike many other security and military organisations, the FSO does not actively utilise various forms of media to recruit new personnel. 

To apply to join the FSO, individuals are expected to apply at a regional branch of the organisation in their local area. In some cases, such as with the St. Petersburg branch, these branches have websites that provide contact information and a list of recruitment requirements. (Source)

3.6.2 Requirements To Serve Within The Federal Protective Service

Requirements for joining the FSO are generally stricter than those of other Russian government organisations. The more elite an element is within the FSO, the harsher these requirements tend to become. 

According to sources affiliated with the FSO, the following bar one’s service within the organisation:

  • Being under the age of 18
  • Absence of Russian citizenship or possession of one alongside it belonging to a hostile state
  • Being unable to pass a medical examination to see if you are fit for service
  • Having a home address registered outside of Russia
  • Having a criminal record
  • Absence of professional, educational and physical training for the role you are applying for
  • Having a pending criminal case, hearing or charge against you
  • Failure to obtain adequate clearance to serve within a specific branch of the FSO or the FSO more generally
  • Fitting the wrong profile during psychometric tests
  • Having a relative who may oversee you within the Russian civil service
  • Discrepancies in any paperwork that is requested of you during the application process
  • Not serving within a Russian security or military unit if you did not complete your education at the FSO Academy.

3.6.1 Additional Requirements For More Elite Roles

In the case of more elite elements or highly technical roles, there may be additional requirements such as:

  • Being able to speak more than one language
  • Having a strong record during a previous security, law enforcement or military role
  • Proven experience or education in a technical specialism (important for you who want to work in a certain role within the SPS, COMK or SBP)
  • Serving within an elite military unit before your application
  • Being recommended for service by a senior member of another security, law enforcement, counter-terrorism, intelligence or military organisation. (Source) (Source)

3.6.3 Remuneration 

Some material indicates that pay for FSO personnel based on rank and role may have been the following in 2021:

  • Cadet – 8400 rubles per month
  • Soldiers starting within the organisation – 12,000 rubles per month
  • Technician – 18,000 rubles per month
  • FSO Primary Officer Positions – 24,000 rubles per month
  • Engineer – 26,400 rubles per month
  • Officer in the SCS – 28,800 rubles per month
  • Security Officer – 31,800 rubles per month
  • Senior Officer in the SCS – 32,000 rubles per month
  • Senior Security Officer – 32,000 rubles per month 
  • Deputy Head of a regional FSO Department – 37,500 rubles per month
  • Deputy Head of Management in a regional FSO Department – 47,000 rubles per month 

Unsurprisingly, this sum can go up significantly depending on one’s rank, how selective the role is or the risks involved within the role. Additionally, the location of your FSO branch (if it is outside of Moscow) also plays a role in determining an FSO employee’s pay.

The remuneration for more opaque elements of the FSO is difficult to obtain. In turn, this makes it difficult to find concrete figures on how much SBP security, SBP Spetnaz and high-ranking FSO personnel more broadly are paid. (Source) (Source

3.6.4 Other Benefits Of Service In The FSO

As well as receiving a monthly salary based on their role, rank and location, FSO personnel are also eligible for other benefits of service such as:

  • The right to an apartment in the event of divorce
  • Easier access to higher education institutions
  • Free holiday with family within Russia once a year, fully covered by the FSO
  • Access to the best hospitals in Russia
  • Entitlement to compensation during injury whilst serving. In the event of death, families are entitled to compensation as well. 
  • The possibility to work after the retirement age of 40 for the FSO
  • The ability to retire at the age of 40 
  • Fully covered treatment for FSO personnel
  • Assistance with moving the family of personnel closer to where they serve
  • Access to free air and water transport if needed
  • Bonus pay during the completion of certain tasks
  • Special legal immunity for FSO employees engaging in official duties is guaranteed by the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. (Source) (Source)

4.0 Equipment

Given the FSO’s role as a powerful internal security service, it naturally enjoys a large arsenal and significant funding to maintain it. Though the secrecy of the organisation makes it challenging to assess its full itinerary, information indicates it has the following equipment: 

4.1 Weapons 

  • MP5 Heckler & Koch Sub-machine Guns (SMG)
  • PP-19 Bizon SMGs
  • AK-105 assault rifles
  • AK-12 assault rifles (Often with Zentico furnishings and sights)
  • AK-74M assault rifles
  • AK-9 assault rifles
  • Glock-17 pistols
  • Lebedev Pl-15 pistols
  • Saiga-12 Shotgun
  • Orsis T-5000 Sniper Rifles
  • SKS bolt-action rifles (Mainly for Ceremonial Purposes)
  • Steyr SSG 08 sniper rifles
  • AMSD OMN-50 anti-materiel bolt-action rifles
  • VSS Vintorez Sniper Rifles
  • DP-64 grenade launcher.
SBP Spetnaz personnel providing overwatch with Orsis T-5000 sniper rifles (Source)

4.2 Vehicles

  • Armoured Sports Utility Vehicles (such as the Mercedes Benz G-500)
  • Armoured Sedans
  • Escort motorcycles (such as the BMW R1200RT and BMW K75RT models)
  • Helicopters (such as Mil MI-17s)
  • Boats
  • Mobile communications vehicles

4.3 Armor And Kit

  • Various forms of helmets
  • Peltor M3 & Impact headsets/ear defenders
  • Kevlar Vests
  • Night vision goggles (for SBP Spetnaz unit)
  • Various Russian and Western plate carriers (mainly for SBP Spetnaz units)
  • Military-grade Binoculars 
  • Military-grade eye protection
  • Encrypted communications radios

FSO SBP Spetnaz individual in an armoured vehicle

5.0 Operational Information

Whilst the FSO does not conduct kinetic operations on a significant scale, it is capable of utilising force through effective tactics. Furthermore, a lot of the organisation’s crucial roles revolve around the prevention of events occurring which would necessitate the use of force, to begin with.

5.1 Notable Incidents

The closed-off nature of the FSO’s day-to-day role in the security of the President and the Russian state means incidents relating to it are hard to note. However, some incidents have come to public knowledge, including defections and foiled assassination attempts. 

5.1.1 Defection of FSO Officer Gleb Karakulov in 2022

In October 2022, former FSO officer Gleb Karakulov is believed to have fled Russia. Karakulov is considered to be the highest-ranking intelligence official to defect during the start of the Russian widened invasion of Ukraine. The contents of interviews and news coverage indicate that he likely defected due to opposition to the invasion of Ukraine and fear of being mobilised. (Source) (Source) (Source)

According to Gleb, he served within the Presidential Communications Directorate as a communications officer within the FSO. He encrypted the messages of top officials and ensured that the President and prime minister had secure communication at all times. Interestingly, Gleb suggests that communications roles in FSO are the “backbone of its command and control”. (Source)

Due to his proximity to Putin, he may have a unique insight into the president consumes his information and treats his security. He claims that Putin lives in an informational vacuum, only relying on information handed to him from the closest security services officials. Also, Gleb suggests Putin is highly reliant on security protocols and quarantines to ensure his safety. (Source

Gleb was likely debriefed since he defected to the West. As well as providing information to anti-Putin NGOs and Western media, Gleb’s knowledge as an FSO officer who was close to Putin is likely of high interest to Western intelligence services and may be exploited. It is believed that Gleb currently resides in Istanbul along with his family. (Source)

5.1.2 Foiled Assassination Attempt On Vladimir Putin In 2000

Russian reporting that FSO managed to foil an assassination plot by two Chechen snipers against Vladimir Putin. Allegedly, the FSO managed to eliminate the two snipers during the President’s visit to the burial of his deceased ally Anatoly Sobchak in St. Petersburg. Sobchak was characterised as a close associate and mentor of Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.

FSO personnel were able to identify the location of the shooters and neutralise them before they were able to attempt to eliminate Putin. At the time, those held responsible for the assassination attempt were Ichkerian paramilitary elements, according to statements made by Russian authorities. (Source) (Source) (Source)

5.1.3 Possible Foiiling Of Assassination Plot On Vladimir Putin In 2008

In 2008, the FSO may have successfully foiled another assassination attempt by a 24-year of Tajik nationality against the Russian President. The individual was possibly raided on March 2nd by FSO personnel in an apartment that was rented for the assassination attempt near Red Square. As well as finding a sniper rifle during the raid, other small arms were also found.

Despite these reports, it is hard to confirm whether the FSO or the FSB was responsible for foiling this assassination plot. Equally, the FSO and FSB may have worked together to neutralise the threat, which is not uncommon for organisations to do. Given the FSO’s remit of providing security for the President, it is likely that it played some role in this incident. (Source) (Source) (Source)

5.2 Core Roles

As mentioned, the roles of the FSO as a security service are broad, which is reflected in its organisational structure. Based on its structure and open-source information, the FSO’s core roles can be identified as:

  • Executive Protection
  • Site Security
  • Counter-Terrorism 
  • Law enforcement 
  • Intelligence-gathering
  • Counter-intelligence
  • Preserving InfoSec
  • Identifying leaks
  • Guarding the nuclear briefcase for the Russian nuclear arsenal
  • Planning travel routes and evacuation for the President
  • Developing communications networks 
  • Augmenting analysis and research capabilities within authorities through advancements in artificial intelligence
  • Carrying out ceremonial functions during parades 
  • Ensuring public safety during public holidays and major public events
  • Coup-proofing

5.3 Tactics

The FSO is trained to employ a range of tactics to carry out its core roles. These include but are not limited to training in convoy protection, providing overwatch and conducting raids.

5.3.1 Convoy Protection

FSO personnel, especially those in the SBP, are trained extensively in the protection of the Presidential convoy during its transit. To ensure the safety of the convoy, FSO personnel would need to plan routes, prepare them for safe transit and draft evacuation plans before any travel would occur. Various FSO training videos and state media reports point to such information. (Source) (Source)

Once these routes have been planned, scouted and prepped for the safe transit of the convoy, other measures have to be taken. Firstly, a range of armoured vehicles has to be sourced and transferred to the location where the President resides. Additionally, various law enforcement and internal security personnel and vehicles have to be ready to accompany the President. 

To prepare for this role, FSO personnel are likely trained to handle the logistical and tactical requirements providing this form of security. This includes training SBP members to be able to respond to ambushes and assassination attempts on the President and the convoy. It also means being able to enact evacuation protocols for the Presidential convoy.  (Source) (Source

Russian Presidential Convoy (Source)

5.3.3 Overwatch By Sniper Teams During Major Visits And Events

Numerous images and videos indicate that the FSO, especially its SBP Spetnaz units, take a proactive role in providing overwatch during major visits and events. Overwatch is the tactic of watching and protecting personnel on a route during their transit. To do this, the FSO’s armed units utilise well-equipped sniper teams taking positions up at high vantage points. (Source)

To engage in this task successfully, FSO personnel are likely tasked to plan the positions that the sniper teams take up before certain events or visits. As well as being able to provide security to officials and the President using this tactic, they also protect members of the public during public events. However, their priority will be protecting the President or other key officials. (Source)

Two FSO SBP Spetnaz snipers providing overwatch (Source)

5.3.4 Conducting Raids And CQB

Given the key roles assigned to the FSO, its armed elements need to be able to conduct raids and CQB effectively. To be able to do those effectively, these armed elements are trained extensively in their ability to breach, enter and secure rooms. Additionally, CQB training ensures that if any hostile personnel uses lethal force, these units can swiftly eliminate them. 

Earlier mentioned incidents show that these raids can be done without requiring the use of lethal force. That said, Russian armed security units tend to be aggressive and swift during the conduct of their raids and responding to armed assailants. This means armed FSO elements like (SPB Spetnaz) are armed and equipped to do this efficiently and as safely as possible. (Source) (Source)

SBP Spetnaz personnel during CQB training (Source)

5.4 Personnel Size

According to most estimates, the FSO has around 50,000 personnel serving within it. It is worth underscoring that the classified nature of information around some of its units and organisations makes it hard to confirm estimates. (Source)

6.0 The Future of the Federal Protective Service

Due to the mounting threats emanating from Russia’s widened invasion of Ukraine, the FSO will become increasingly pivotal to Putin’s and Russian state security. Wagner’s mutiny may lead to increased resources being diverted to the FSO to protect the President and the Kremlin more generally. This may include some of its armed units being re-equipped too. (Source)

Additionally, the defection of Gleb Karakulov could increase the level of surveillance conducted on high-ranking FSO personnel. Potentially, this may involve more funding being allocated to counter-intelligence within the FSO or outsourcing of it to other Russian intelligence and security services. This may prevent future defections.

The FSO could also play a role when it comes to dealing with the growing threat of Ukrainian-backed groups conducting operations within Russia. As cross-border raids by the Russian Volunteer Corps and Ichkerian OBON, this threat is increasing. Yet, it is unclear as to whether the scale they can operate at makes them a major threat to Putin or Russian stability. (Source) (Source) (Source)

7.0 Conclusion

The FSO is a secretive and selective element of Russia’s internal security apparatus capable of performing a range of functions. Alongside taking the necessary measures to protect the President of Russia, its diverse internal structure is capable of performing intelligence, counter-terrorism, law enforcement and even ceremonial duties. 

As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues, the FSO may be pivotal for coup-proofing the current political system and protecting Putin from other internal threats. Given the opaque nature of what occurs within the FSO, it is unclear what steps are being undertaken to enable it to do so more effectively. However, looming threats and the FSO’s response to them will showcase if the FSO is fit for purpose.

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