The Rosgvardia (National Guard of Russia): Russia’s Internal Guard

1.0 Introduction

The National Guard Of Russia, also known as the Rosgvardia, is Russia’s largest internal security force. As well as providing stability within the Russian state through key roles, the organisation also guards Vladimir Putin against internal threats against his power.

2.0 Motto, Emblems And Patches

Drawing from a range of influences, the Rosgvardia and its units utilise a range of emblems, patches and mottos. Alongside helping to distinguish various elements within it, they also help to cultivate an identity within an otherwise new internal security organisation.

2.1 Motto 

The Rosgvardia’s motto is ‘Always on guard’ (Всегда на страже), referencing its internal security role within Russia. Its motto — alongside other symbolic elements — has existed within the organisation since its formation by the decree of Putin in 2016.  (Source) (Source) (Source)

2.2 Symbols

Noticeably, the Rosgvardia and its units utilise various emblems. Borrowing from various historical and symbolic influences, the Rosgvardia’s emblems give it a distinctive aesthetic as an organisation.   

2.2.1 Emblem Of Rosgvardia 

With the formation of the Rosgvardia, an emblem for the internal security force was adopted in 2016. The emblem includes three prominent features; a crowned double-headed eagle; crossed swords; and a shield. Often, the emblem’s background consists of two red and two white stripes.

2.2.1.1 Double-Headed Eagle

As seen, a crowned double-headed eagle is a prominent emblem feature. Having roots in the aesthetics of the Russian Empire, a gold double-headed eagle was likely chosen for the symbol due to its historical significance. (Source) (Source)

Most likely, the crown on the eagle represents the fact that the Rosgvardia is a federal executive body. Moreover, the design of the crown emulates that of the Russian Empire’s rulers. The same crown was used for the first units of Rosgvardia’s predecessor organisation the ‘Internal Guard’. (Source) 

2.2.1.2 Two-Crossed Swords Behind A Shield

As can be seen, the eagle also holds two crossed swords in its paws with silver wedges behind a shield. Arguably, the crossed swords behind the shield represent the presence of military units within the Rosgvardia. 

2.2.1.3 Knight On Shield

A shield placed on the sword at the centre of the eagle in front of the swords likely has symbolic significance too. Centrally placed in the emblem, a knight on a horse slaying a dragon on a red background is visible on the shield. The knight potentially symbolises that those in Rosgvardia belong to an organisation tasked to guard the ruler of the country. (Source)                        

The main emblem of the Rosgvardia

As is worth noting, two other emblems can be seen as having direct relevance to the Rosgvardia. 

2.2.2.1 Emblem Of The Main Directorate Of The Special Forces Of The Rosgvardia 

The Main Directorate Of The Special Forces Of The Rosgvardia has a distinct emblem. Officially created in 2019, the emblem includes the following: 

  • An AKS-74U rifle held by a hand in a fist, all in white
  • A sword attached to two wings behind the rifle with the handle pointing upwards, also in white
  • A red background.

The AKS-74U being held potentially symbolises that Rosgvardia Special Forces can use both their weapons and hand-to-hand combat proficiently. Meanwhile, the winged sword could symbolise the speed with which these Rosgvardia units can fight against criminals and terrorists. (Source)

2.2.2.2 Emblem of The Central Apparatus Of The Rosgvardia (Excluding The Main Directorate Of The Special Forces Of The Rosgvardia) 

Interestingly, an emblem representing the Central Apparatus of the Rosgvardia (excluding the Main Directorate of the Special Forces of the Rosgvardia) also exists. Seemingly, it includes a golden gryphon holding a shield and a sword on a red background. Furthermore, the shield includes a crowned double-headed eagle similar to that in the Rosgvardia emblem. (Source) (Source)

2.2.2.3 Districts Of The Rosgvardia Troops Emblems

Strikingly, there are also unique emblems that represent each of the eight districts of Rosgvardia troops. Though very similar to each other, they are distinguishable due to the different weapons that are crossed on them, ranging from swords to arrows. The eight districts with their respective emblems are: 

  • Central District 
  • Northwest District 
  • North Caucus District
  • Volga District
  • Ural District
  • Siberian District
  • Eastern District

2.3 Patches

Given the scale and scope of the organisation, personnel in the Rosgvardia understandably wear a range of patches to distinguish themselves. 

2.3.1 Rosgvardia District Patch Differences

There are numerous districts for the Rosgvardia and this is reflected in patches worn by the personnel from them. Regardless of the specific Rosgvardia unit they are in, personnel’s patches will visibly indicate which district they belong to. 

For instance, the patch of an OMON individual from the Eastern District will look different to that of one from the Southern District. One can distinguish which district Rosgvardia units individuals come from based on the weapon, colours and symbols included on their patches. (Source)

2.3.2 Unit Patches

Visually, the patches of Rosgvardia patches also vary depending on the specific element in which their personnel serve. Furthermore, they are also individualised to reflect the districts they belong in. Each of the following Rosgvardia personnel has their unit patches:

  • Regular Rosgvardia personnel (Source)
  • SOBR personnel 
2.3.3 Rosgvardia Emblem Patches

Though many patches are designed to identify individual units, general organisation patches also exist for Rosgvardia personnel. One commonly worn by Rosgvarida personnel is in the form of the main emblem of the Rosgvardia.

Furthermore, patches with the emblems of the Main Directorate of the Special Forces of the Rosgvardia and the Central Apparatus of the Rosgvardia (Excluding The Main Directorate Of The Special Forces) are also common. 

3.0 Organisation

Without a doubt, the Rosgvardia is one of the most important internal security organisations within Russia and core to Putin’s hold over the country. With a vast remit and significant resources, the organisation is structurally complex and a byproduct of Russia’s past internal security arrangements. 

3.1 History of Predecessor Organisations To The Rosgvardia 

Whilst being a relatively new organisation, the Rosgvardia’s role is informed by the historical role of other internal security forces within Russia. 

According to the website of the Rosgvardia itself, its formation is largely the result of the history of other predecessor organisations such as:

  • Various law enforcement forces in the pre-revolutionary period (before 1917)
  • Vchk, GPU, OGPU and NKVD during the civil war and interwar period (from 1917 to 1941)
  • NKVD troops during World War Two (1941-1945)
  • Internal Troops of Russia (1945-1991)
  • Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia (1991-2016). (Source)
3.1.1.1 Law Enforcement Forces Before 1917

As stated by the Rosgvardia, law enforcement forces before the pre-revolutionary period were formative to the formation and task set of the organisation today. The first of such forces, the internal guards, was formed in 1811 by the decree of Alexander I of Russia. As well as helping to replenish Russian forces during wartime, the internal guards also provided internal security. 

In 1816, district commands and provincial battalions of the internal guards became the Separate Corp of Internal Guards. Not only did the Internal Guards engage in standard garrison functions within Imperial Russia, but they also assisted field troops and provided stability where they were based. However, in 1864, its functions were transferred to local troops within Imperial Russia.

As of 1866, convoy commands of the Russian Empire were a new iteration of internal security. They were subordinate to two organisations, the General Staff of the Military Ministry and the Main Prison Department. Strikingly, both the convoy as mentioned earlier commands and local troops were responsible for law enforcement and internal security functions. 

During World War 1, the local troops assisted in the mobilisation of individuals for the army, as well as stabilising backline positions. Moreover, they guarded military supplies for new military units and provided reinforcements to the army. Overall, the aforementioned forces were formative in the gendarmerie and law enforcement functions that the Rosgvardia took in. (Source

Convoy command personnel pictured sometime between 1908-1910 (Source)
3.1.1.2 V-Cheka, GPU, OGPU and NKVD Internal Security Elements From 1917-1941

After the October Revolution in 1917, the newly established Communist Vanguard created its internal security bodies. Alongside the Red Army, various armed formations were created for departments in need of their forces. Some of them included the following:

  1. Troops of the All-Union Cheka
  1. Railway guards subordinate to the People’s Commissariat of Food
  1. Border guards belonging to the People’s Commissariat of Finance
  1. Convoy guards belonging to the People’s Commissariat of Justice.

Later on, these evolved into more formal internal security bodies between 1918-1937. Specifically, they led to the formation of the VChk Corps of Troops, Internal Guard Troops, GPU Troops, OGPU Troops NKVD Internal Guard and USSR NKVD Internal Troops.  Their remits became more broad than those of their predecessor bodies. 

Being a vehicle for more adaptation, the Soviet-Finnish War of 1939-1940 led to a further change in the role of the NKVD. With an expanded remit, the NKVD was responsible for the protection of military facilities, alongside disruption of backline operations of sabotage groups and enemy agents. (Source)

By the beginning of World War II, the NKVD of the USSR had also formed four directorates to manage the NKVD troops:

  • Main Directorate of Border Troops of the NKVD of the USSR
  • Main Directorate of the USSR NKVD Troops – Designed to protect railway constructions and critical industrial enterprises
  • Directorate of Operational Troops of the USSR NKVD
  • Directorate of Convoy Troops of the USSR NKVD.
3.1.1.3 NKVD During World War II 

Mentioned with particular pride by the Rosgvardia, the role of NKVD Troops was seen as central to what the organisation is today. After the start of World War II, the NKVD transferred fifteen rifle divisions to the People’s Commissariat of Defence of the USSR. All these divisions played a key role and two of them ended up becoming Guards units. 

From 1942 onwards, the NKVD Troops were led by Colonel-General A.N. Apollonov, the Deputy People’s Commissar of Internal Affairs for Troops. Additionally, the Separate Army of the NKVD troops was formed from the border and internal troops and transferred to the Red Army in 1943. Named the 70th Army after the transfer, they took part in the Battle of Kursk. (Source)

Throughout the war, the NKVD took on a diverse range of offensive and defensive military roles. Involved in backline military roles, the NKVD was involved in the protection of military assets within Russia and countering German sabotage group operations. Also, the NKVD helped prepare sabotage and reconnaissance groups to operate in enemy backlines.

In around 1943, the role of the NKVD changed as the Red Army gained initiative. Notably, internal troops began to be involved in radio countermeasures and garrison services. Moreover, they also were involved in the transfer of prisoners of war. On top of that, internal troops also fought various independence movements in Ukraine and Baltics within the USSR. (Source)

3.1.1.4 Internal Troops of Russia (1945-1991)

Per the information on the Rosgvardia’s website, NKVD and internal troops were actively involved in countering Baltic, Western Ukrainian and Western Belarussian independence elements.  Indeed, this was the main task of Soviet internal security forces during the early post-war period.

In 1946, many internal troops elements began to be reformed into special units. Moreover, they became the basis for special motorised militia units in 1966 and integrated into the internal troops’ structure. After 1968, when Lieutenant-General Yakolev took charge, the internal troops underwent major reforms that improved their efficacy. 

In an important moment for Soviet internal security, the Military Council of Internal Troops of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs was established in 1971. The establishment of the organisation led to more effective management structures for troops under the control of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs. 

As worth drawing attention to, the internal troops of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs had a notable impact on Soviet history. For instance, dealing with the fallout of the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Plant in April 1986. Additionally, internal troops were involved in the stabilisation of Central Asia, Transcaucasia and Transnistria between 1988-1991. (Source) (Source)

Soldiers belonging to the 132nd Separate Battalion Of Convoy Troops of the NKVD holding their battalion flag sometime during World War II. (Source)
3.1.1.5 Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia (1991-2016)

Despite the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Rosgvardia website claims internal troops continued fulfilling their core tasks. They included:

  • Retaining public order
  • Maintaining public safety 
  • Guarding important state facilities and special cargo
  • Manning correctional labour institutions
  • Escorting convicts and people in custody.

Under the control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, new bodies and formations began to be established in places such as North Ossetia and Chechnya. These internal troops went on to be tested in operations during the First Chechen War between 1994-1996. During the war, they performed a range of counter-insurgency and police-tactical roles.

Near the turn of the century, the post of Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs was established in 1997. Additionally, the main headquarters of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia was formed in 1999. Thereafter, reforms led to the establishment of internal troop districts as part of major reforms in 2008.

Slowly beginning to mirror its successor, the Rosgvardia, internal troops began to be better equipped and more mobile near the 2010s period. In part, this was the result of a continued role played in counter-terrorism and to enhance border security played alongside the FSB. From 2014 to the founding of Rosgvardia, the Internal Troops kept growing in their role within Russia. (Source) (Source)

Chechen and a soldier of the Internal Troops on the road leading to Grozny, on December 12, 1994. (Source)

3.2 History Of The Rosgvardia

Two years after the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the Rosgvardia was officially formed in 2016 by Presidential Decree. Rather than leading to the formation of entirely new organisations, its creation led to the reorganisation of existing internal security forces and organisations. However, the main change is that this organisation is commanded more directly by Putin himself.  (Source)

Arguably, the most significant change as a result of Rosgvardia’s formation was the transfer of 140,000 from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) to the new organisation. Furthermore, 40,000 OMON Special Purpose Mobile personnel and 12,000 Specialised Quick Reaction Forces (SOBR) were transferred away from the MVD to the Rosgvardia. 

Often overlooked, the private security elements of the MVD which generated revenue, were also transferred to the Rosgvardia. Moreover, the air divisions of the MVD and Federal State Unitary Enterprise (FSUE) protection elements also became a part of the new organisation. (Source)

The Rosgvardia saw its most prominent inter-state war role during the Russian widened invasion of Ukraine. After taking significant losses in an initial rapid offensive attempt into Kyiv, the Rosgvardia was assigned to more backline roles. Particularly, this included the repression and occupation of captured areas of Ukraine during earlier parts of the invasion. (Source)

3.3 Organisations within the Rosgvardia

The sheer size of the Rosgvardia naturally leads to it having a significant amount of organisations encased within it. The most prominent of these are the following 

3.3.1 Main Center Of Information Technology 

Responsible for streamlining information collection within it, the Main Center of Informational Technology (MCIT) is an important element within the Rosgvardia. The organisation is the successor to The Main Center of The Automated Control System for the Internal Troops of the MVD. 

Unique in its roles, the MCIT is responsible for the development and creation of various programs, situational models, logistics management, informational security and R&D technology support. Additionally, MCIT develops and supports automated Command and Control systems (C2) for the Rosgvardia. 

The earliest predecessor of MCIT is the Automation Laboratory Of The MVD’s Internal Troops which was established in 1973. The Automation Laboratory set the tone of the MCIT’s present focus on utilising technology for C2 that helps identify threats and dispatch assets to promptly neutralise them. (Source) (Source)

3.3.2 Main Center for Scientific Research 

Another organisation concerned with utilising innovation to enhance the efficacy of the Rosgvardia is the Main Center For Scientific Research (MCSR). It is the legal successor of the Center for Operational and Tactical Research of the Troops of the MVD, which was established in 2003. 

Predominantly, the MCSR is focused on the utilisation of science to enhance the ability of the Rosgvardia to effectively fulfil its core objectives and purpose. This includes conducting scientific research to do the following: 

  • Address challenges in construction for key infrastructure that Rosgvardia is dependent on
  • Develop new capabilities for the Rosgvardia
  • Enhance the training of the Rosgvardia
  • Improve the effectiveness of Rosgvardia personnel in carrying out certain roles
  • Engage in R&D for camouflage to be utilised on uniforms
  • Identify positive and negative trends within R&D and adequately engage with them to improve them
  • Conduct military science research. This would mainly include the research and analysis of tactics, operational practices and general doctrine.
  • Conduct R&D for weapons systems and other military equipment
  • Identify flaws and success in procurement practices and address or exploit them
  • Engage in the research of security threats and how to tackle them

In general, the MCSR seems to balance the application of academia, military science and conventional scientific knowledge to increase the Rosgvardia’s capacity to carry out its roles. Whilst the Rosgvardia notes the existence of the organisation, information on the extent of personnel it has within it and its current work is. (Source

3.3.3 Center For Special Purpose Non-Departmental Security 

One of its more secretive organisations, the Center For Special Purpose Non-Departmental Security (CSPNDS) plays an important role within the Rosgvardia. In essence, the CSPNDS protects government and non-government assets deemed to be important for national security. This includes property, facilities and even convoys. Sadly, little information exists on CSPNDS. (Source)

3.3.4 Central Communications Center 

Central to Rosgvardia’s internal communications, the Central Communications Center (CCC) plays a crucial role within the organisation since 2019. At its core, the role of the CCC is in enabling the ability for Rosgvardia personnel to communicate effectively via telephone, telegraph, radio and telegram. Often, this includes managing communications infrastructure.

The oldest iteration of the organisation, the Communications Center Of The MVD, was established in 1957. Regardless of the evolution of communications technology, the organisation has consistently focused on the same task. Namely, the establishment of  communications nodes that are effectively integrated into the Rosgvardia’s C2. (Source)

3.3.8 Educational Organisations

The Rosgvardia also has educational organisations encased within it, such as military institutes and cadet schools. In general, these organisations are focused on providing specialist training, conducting research and even housing specialist Rosgvardia units. Furthermore, they are essential for creating specialists within its ranks. These organisations include:

  • Saratov Military Order of Zhukov Red Banner Institute – One of the oldest of the Rosgvardia’s military institutes, the organisation was established in 1936.  According to recent information, the organisation is believed to have 16 professors and 11 PhD programs. It is currently headed by Major General Oleinik Sergey Ivanovich (Source)
  • St. Petersburg Military Order of Zhukov Institute – Established in 1946, this organisation has trained at least 33,000 officers within the Rosgvardia and its predecessor organisations.  The organisation focuses on the provision of education in national security law and military psychology. It is headed by Colonel Kiiko Andrey Yurievich (Source)
  • Perm Military Institute – This organisation is the youngest of the military institutes within the Rosgvardia, established in 1981. One of its core focuses is the development of artillery and communications specialists and it has produced at least 6,299 offices since its existence. It is currently headed by Major General Rusanov Evgeny Mikhailovich (Source)
  • Novosibirsk Military Institute of General of the Army I.K. Yakovlev – Created in 1971, this institute is focused on teaching national security law and translation. Since its existence, 10,723 Rosgvardia officers have graduated from it, all with focuses on various military specialisms. It is currently headed by Major General Kosukhin Valery Viktorovich. (Source)

As well as creating military specialists and educating personnel, these institutes also process intelligence and focus on mapping for the Rosgvardia. Moreover, they house technical, t administrative and medical departments that enable the organisation to carry out its internal security functions.

3.4 Units within the Rosgvardia

Alongside containing numerous organisations, the Rosgvardia also includes a broad array of units with different roles and resources:

3.4.1  Special Rapid Response Unit (SOBR)

Formed in 1992, the SOBR is staffed by some of the Rosgvardia’s most highly-trained and effective personnel. Initially, they were formed to combat the organised crime elements that formed within Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. After the First Chechen War, the organisation also began to carry out counter-terrorism and stabilisation functions. (Source) (Source)

After their incorporation into the Rosgvardia in 2016, the SOBR saw a continual upgrade in its equipment and general capabilities. Moreover, it began to see a continual expansion in the political-tactical role that it was tasked to undertake. For these reasons, the SOBR is often referred to within Russia as the ‘Special Forces of the Police’.

Currently, there are several SOBR units based in various regions of Russia. Some of their names and locations include:

  • SOBR Viking – Based in Kaliningrad Oblast
  • SOBR Rubin – Based in Novgorod Oblast 
  • SOBR Bulat – Based in Moscow
  • SOBR Granit – Based in St Petersburg
  • SOBR Akhmat – Based in the Chechen Republic. It was previously known as SOBR Terek
  • SOBR Khazan – Located in annexed Crimea

Whilst configured based on regional needs, all of the aforementioned SOBR units are all trained to provide a range of tasks. This means SOBR units contain explosive specialists, snipers, combat divers, negotiators and paragliders. Allegedly, 4000 dogs used within SOBR canine units have been given medals and orders for their service. (Source)

SOBR Lynx personnel with PP-19 Vityaz SMGs and Glock pistols (Source)

3.4.2 Special Purpose Mobile Units (OMON)

The Rosgvardia’s Special Purpose Mobile Units (OMON) can best described as Russia’s gendarmerie units. Like the SOBR, OMON personnel are highly equipped and responsible for undertaking a range of police tactical roles. However, OMON is more catered to engaging in riot control than the SOBR and is a successor of riot police units established in 1998 within Russia. (Source)

Another similarity OMON shares with the SOBR is having distinctive units assigned to specific regions of Russia. In the case of OMON, the most prominent of these include Zubr (based in Moscow), Bastion (located in St Petersburg) and Berkut (based in Crimea). Additionally, not unlike the SOBR, OMON personnel played a prominent role in both of the Chechen wars. (Source)

Whilst being an internal security asset, OMON has also been invaluable in consolidating Putin’s control of the Russian state. Its frequent utilisation to quickly suppress opposition protest movements and being used as a show of force is invaluable in maintaining the stability of the Russian state. This is especially valuable for retaining control of annexed Crimea since 2014. (Source)

3.4.3 Marine Units 

Akin to the US coast guard in its core purpose, the Rosgvardia’s marine units play a crucial role in Russia’s maritime security and broader internal security. Like many of Rosgvardia’s other units, its marine units also work closely with the Russian FSB and other organisations crucial to Russia’s domestic security. (Source)

The day-to-day tasks are the organisation are highly diverse and include some of the following:

  • Patrolling Russia’s coast
  • Combatting illegal fishing
  • Inspecting and assessing underwater infrastructure crucial to Russian internal security
  • Ensuring safe passage for Russian vessels near the coast of Crimea
  • Assisting in counter-terrorism 
  • Searching and seizing vessels 
  • Assisting in joint operations with other Rosgvardia units during operations of various police tactical relevance

3.4.7 Aviation Units 

Essential for the success of the Rosgvardia as an organisation, its aviation units carry out a range of important tasks. The role of its aviation is extensive, ranging from the provisions of close air support for the Rosgvardia ground units, transporting them and evacuating wounded personnel. To boot, these aviation units are invaluable for the Rosgvardia’s logistics. (Source)

Unlike other Rosgvardia units, its aviation units are frequently trained by the Russian Ministry of Defence (MoD) to fulfil more advanced roles. Furthermore, the initial training of its pilots is also carried out within military institutes belonging to the MoD.  This includes training in the use of Russian military-grade aircraft such as Mi-24 and Mil-8 helicopters. (Source)

Alongside the aforementioned roles, Rosgvardia aviation units are instrumental in carrying out the following:

  • Reconnaissance with UAVs and aircraft
  • Respond to national emergencies, such as natural disasters
  • Doing joint operations with Russian law enforcement and domestic intelligence units
  • Providing security for major events, such as football tournaments
  • Assisting in political tactical operations against organised criminal elements
  • Conducting surveillance
  • Disrupting illegal poaching

3.5 Place Within The Russian Security Nexus

The Rosgvardia’s organisational remit is extensive. Involved in all matters of internal security, the Rosgvardia carries out police-tactical, counter-terrorism, anti-riot and site security roles. To enable this to be done effectively, the organisation utilises uniquely adapted units to these roles.

Arguably, one of the most important aspects of the Rosgvardia’s utility to the Russian state is political. By creating a formation entirely subordinate to himself, Putin’s control of the Rosgvardia deters threats from an MoD that may turn on him in the future. Furthermore, it can be used to suppress political opposition during high-risk activities such as invading Ukraine.

In this sense, the Rosgvardia’s place and role within the Russian security nexus is one of power consolidation for the President. Perhaps, its creation was part of laying the optimal domestic framework for the pursuit of aggressive foreign policy actions that could backfire politically, such as the widened invasion of Ukraine. (Source)

3.6 Key Figures

To understand how the Rosgvardia operates, it is important to understand those who play a key role within it. In the case of Rosgvardia, these individuals are the following:

3.6.1 Viktor Zolotov

Since 2016, Viktor Zolotov has been the Director of the Rosgvardia.  Early in his career in the 1970s, he served in the 9th Directorate of the KGB. Markedly, the role of the 9th Directorate was to provide executive protection for important Soviet officials and site security for key facilities. 

After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Zolotov then joined the Main Directorate of Security of the Russian Federation. During his time as a bodyguard for the Mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak, he also met Vladimir Putin. Between 2003-2013, Zolotov held the position of Head of the Security Service of the President of the Russian Federation. 

Due to his loyalty to Putin, Zolotov was eventually entrusted with the role of Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the internal Troops of the MVD in 2013. A year later, he became First Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, a role that saw him command 220,000 personnel. A year before securing his present role in the Rosgvardia, he was awarded the rank of Army General. (Source)

Based on reporting by Russian investigative journalists, it is believed Zolotov and Kadyrov share a close relationship. Moreover, Zolotov is believed to have aided the cover-up of Boris Nemtsov’s murder. Whilst having a high rank in the Rosgvardia, it is Putin who exercises ultimate decision-making over how it operates rather than Zolotov. (Source) (Source)

3.6.2 Viktor Strigunov 

Presently, the First Deputy Director of the Rosgvardia Viktor Strigunov plays a central role in the organisation. Like Zolotov, Strigunov’s experience is extensive. During the 1980s, Stringunov graduated from the Kharkiv (then Kharkov) Higher Military School of the Rear of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR.

From 1991 to 2000, Strigunov climbed to the rank of deputy division commander within the Eastern District of Internal Troops of the Russian MVD.  Thereafter in 2002, he was appointed head Novosibirsk Military Institute of Internal Troops of the MVD. This was after graduating from the Military Academy of the General Staff in the same year. 

Between 2007 to 2016, Strigunov led the Eastern and Western Regional Command of the Internal Troops of the MVD. After Rosgvardia’s formation, he was appointed commander of the Siberian District of the organisation. Importantly, Strigunov was appointed as the First Deputy Director of the Rosgvardia by presidential decree in 2020.

Like his colleague Zolotov, Strigunov likely made a substantial fortune through corruption, as reported by investigative journalists. As well as sharing involvement in corruption, Strigunov is also highly subordinate to Vladimir Putin and acts at his behest like Zolotov.  (Source) (Source) (Source)

3.8 Recruitment

Due to the centrality of the organisation to Russian security, the Rosgvardia is in constant need of manpower capable of performing various tasks. In turn, this has a significant influence on the way recruitment is carried out by Rosgvardia.

3.8.1 Methods Of Recruiting

Given the present focus on raising manpower for the Russian invasion of Ukraine, little effort is presently made to recruit personnel for the Rosgvardia comparatively. Despite this, Rosgvardia continues to attract recruits through social media, television advertisements and recruitment posters.

Like security and military forces, the Rosgvardia also utilises appearances on Russian state news to advertise itself. As well as demonstrating the efficacy and training of the Rosgvardia, these appearances also help foster a positive image of it amongst the public. 

Recruitment poster for the Rosgvardia (Source)

3.8.2 Requirements To Serve Within Rosgvardia

Based on an array of information provided on Rosgvardia’s official website, there are numerous requirements for joining its ranks. Whilst some requirements are rather general, others are more specific to the specific element of the Rosgvardia one joins. (Source)

3.8.2.1 General Requirements 

Regardless of which position one applies for, these seem to be essential characteristics for those wishing to join the Rosgvardia to meet: 

  • Being over 18
  • Having Russian citizenship
  • No pending convictions
  • Valid documentation
  • Successfully filling the health criteria for enlistment
  • No lower than secondary-level education

Interestingly, certain criminal convictions and behaviour traits can be examined in a negative light, yet they do not seem to inherently disqualify service in the Rosgvardia. For example, being criminally inclined makes it less likely for one to join but does not inherently bar them from service.

3.8.2.2 Requirements Depending On Role

Understandably, age limits exist for roles within the Rosgvardia. Yet, they vary depending on the role pursued. Those pursuing junior roles can join if they are 35 years old or younger, whilst those pursuing more senior roles can apply until they are 40 years old. On top of that, those seeking to apply for more senior positions are expected to have a higher level of education.

Unsurprisingly, having diseases also poses limitations on being able to join the Rosgvardia. Despite this, whether you are entirely restricted from joining the Rosgvardia depends on the category of disease you have. Ranked in alphabetical form, they are the following:

  1. Suitable for service in the troops of the national guard of the Russian Federation.
  1. Suitable for military service in the troops of the Rosgvardia. Whilst able to serve, they are barred from taking on certain duties in the Rosgvardia.
  1. Temporarily unsuitable for service in the troops of the national guard of the Russian Federation.
  1. Not suitable for service in the troops of the national guard of the Russian Federation.

As is worth mentioning, those applying for SOBR and certain OMON roles will be subject to even higher requirements. In this vein, various tables highlight what these requirements are on Rosgvardia’s website. 

3.8.3 Remuneration 

Given the sheer range of roles in the Rosgvardia, it is arguably more useful to look at what informs lower and higher pay within it. The following have a role in determining the pay of personnel:

  • Their consecutive years of services
  • Rank within the Rosgvardia
  • How elite the formation they serve in is
  • The risk entailed in the role they serve in
  • Level of clearance required for their role. Those who require a higher level of clearance are paid more
  • The area you are deployed in. Those in St Petersburg or Moscow (areas with higher living costs) are paid more than counterparts outside of these regions. Funding in a district or region is also a factor in this sense
  • Completion of special tasks during service, which can lead to one-off bonuses being paid
  • One-off bonus payments for those decorated with a state award
  • Having a certain in-demand specialism. (Source)

As is the case with military service, those in the Rosgvardia are also promised compensation based on various situations. Mainly, they are as follows:

  • Payouts to families of personnel in the event of their death during their service
  • Compensation is paid to personnel in the event of sustaining injuries that render them 

unable to work

  • Compensation to family in the event of death up to a year after the dismissal of personnel from the Rosgvardia
  • Full compensation in the event of damage to property during service
  • Full coverage of light or medium injuries sustained during service
  • Reimbursement of any costs necessary for the carrying out of service.

Similar to the conditions for remuneration, those in a more elite role or higher rank will be entitled to higher levels of compensation than those who are not.  

4.0 Equipment

Due to the important and diverse role of the Rosgvardia, its personnel utilise an array of equipment. 

4.1 Weapons 

  • AK74 and AK74M assault rifles
  • ADS underwater assault rifles
  • AK-200 assault rifles
  • AK-205 assault rifles
  • PP-19-01 “Vityaz” submachine guns
  • AS-Val subsonic assault rifles (Only for elite units)
  • VSS Vintorez sniper rifles (Only for elite units)
  • ORSIS T-500 sniper rifles
  • SVD sniper rifles
  • SV-98 sniper rifles
  • VSK-94 sniper rifles
  • RPK-74 light machine guns 
  • PKP Pecheneg light machine guns
  • Kord heavy machine guns
  • GM-94 grenade launchers
  • AGS-17 automatic grenade launchers 
  • RPG-7V2 rocket-propelled grenade launchers
  • GSh-18 pistols
  • MP-443 Grach pistols
  • D-30 howitzers
  • ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns
  • 2S12 ‘SANI’ heavy mortar system

4.2 Vehicles

  • BTR-82A armoured personnel carriers (APCs)
  • BTR-70 APCs
  • BMP-97 Vystrel APCs
  • Remdiesel Z-STS Akhmat Infantry Mobility Vehicles (IMVs)
  • Patrol A IMVs
  • Tigr IMVs
  • Ural-VV IMVs
  • Highlander-K Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs)
  • KamAZ-4350 military trucks
  • BK-16 high-speed landing boats
  • Grachonok-class anti-saboteur ship
  • Mil MI-24 helicopter gunships
  • Kamov Ka-226 utility helicopter
  • Ilyushin Il-76 military transport aircraft
  • Antonov An-26 military transport aircraft

4.3 Armor And Kit

  • ZSH-1 police helmets
  • 6B7-1M helmets
  • 6B27 helmets
  • Plate carriers
  • Night vision goggles (for elite units such as SOBR ones)
  • Anti-riot gear
  • Kevlar shields
  • Eye protection
  • Ear defenders (for elite units)
SOBR Lynx snipers on a rooftop (Source)

5.0 Tactical-Operational Information

Despite its relatively short existence, the Rosgvardia has conducted a range of important operations. Equipped to deal with various tasks, the organisation serves an indispensable role in the Russian state’s internal security. SOBR Lynx snipers on a rooftop

5.1 Notable Operations

Since its existence, the Rosgvardia has been involved in an array of operations within the Russian state. 

5.1.1 Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Special attention was paid to the Rosgvardia’s role in the widened Russian invasion of Ukraine since February 2022. Initially, its role was to occupy captured territory in what was likely intended to be a low-resistance occupation of Ukraine achieved by successful unconventional warfare methods. (Source)  

Due to the inadequate means of Rosgvardia units to fight in inter-state wars, heavy losses were taken by them when encountering resistance from Ukrainian forces. Yet, in some areas that were taken successfully and without much resistance, such as Kherson, it consolidated control of captured areas. Most likely, this led to the involvement of its units in the Bucha Massacre. (Source) (Source)

As is commonly agreed, the key elements within the Rosgvardia such as OMON and SOBR units were unable to successfully perform their role in Ukraine. In large part, the lack of training of these units for conventional combat operations made them unable to deal with Ukrainian military elements. This also left them unable to stabilise the rest of Ukraine as was planned. (Source)

Per media reports, 115 Rosgvardia personnel were sacked after refusing to participate in the invasion. Though a small number, the coverage of the lawsuit launched by these individuals had outsized media coverage. The incident highlighted the presence of dissent within an organisation designed to be highly loyal to the Russian state in relation to the invasion. (Source) (Source)

5.1.2 Countering Border Raids Since The Invasion Of Ukraine

After its initial involvement in the invasion of Ukraine, the Rosgvardia dealt with numerous internal security threats. Potentially, Rosgvardia elements were deployed to deal with cross-border incursions conducted by the Russian Volunteer Corps (RVC) in Bryansk and Belgorod. Strikingly, the Rosgvardia’s latest role was its response to the Wagner Group mutiny. (Source)

Russian media reports concerning Rosgvardia’s clash with the RVC do exist, but they are hard to verify. In part, this is down to the fact that both the RVC and the Russian state were incentivised to exploit the event informationally. Yet, the reports do indicate that general clashes between the two units occurred within two villages in the Bryansk Oblast on March 2 2023. (Source)

Given the noted role of FSB units in beating back both raids, it is likely that the Rosgvardia operated in a joint manner with the FSB. Additionally, the MVD’s photographed presence in the area also indicates that Rosgvardia cooperated with it during the anti-incursion operations too. (Source)

5.1.3 Dealing With Wagner’s Mutiny 

Though accounts are conflicting, it is believed the Rosgvardia was deployed to curtail Wagner’s mutiny attempt. Most likely, the Rosgvardia failed to contribute to the disruption of Wagner’s march onto Moscow. However, it is possible that Rosgvardia units were ordered not to attempt to engage Wagner’s forces to not escalate the situation. (Source)

On the one hand, some information does suggest that the Rosgvardia was positioned to resist an incursion of the Wagner convoy into Moscow. On the other, images of Rosgvardia personnel alongside Wagner units in Rostov during the seizure of the South Military District headquarter indicates some may have defected to Wagner. (Source) (Source)

Since the mutiny, the Russian state has expressed interest in providing heavy weaponry to the Rosgvardia to enhance its capabilities. This includes tanks, aircraft, artillery and warship, some of which were seized from Wagner after the mutiny. Additionally, elite MVD internal security units seem to have been embedded into the ranks of the Rosgvardia to enhance its combat potential. (Source) (Source)

5.2 Core Roles

Based on existing information and past information on its predecessor organisations, Rosgvardia’s role can be split into the following:

  • Backline stabilisation
  • Counter-terrorism
  • Counter-insurgency
  • Riot control
  • Site security for government facilities
  • Anti-diversionary reconnaissance group (DRG) operations
  • Railway and bridge protection
  • Enforcing public order measures (as was the case with Covid19)
  • Fighting organised criminal elements, especially well-armed ones
  • Convoy protection
  • Coup-proofing the Russian state
  • Oversight of private security activity within Russia
  • Dealing with radiation, chemical, and biological threats. (Source)

5.3 Tactics

Due to the sheer span of the Rosgvardia’s role, identifying a specific set of tactics units within its ranks employ is challenging. Generally speaking though, these tactics are adjusted to best cater to the aforementioned roles its various elements undertake. Yet, the training footage and previous operations undertaken by the Rosgvardia can identify some of these tactics.

5.3.1 Urban Close Quarter Battles (CQB) Tactics

Rosgvardia units extensively practice and implement CQB tactics. Some of these tactics include the use of ballistic shields, securing entries, breaching entries and neutralising armed assailants. These CQB tactics are also implemented by Rosgvardia units to conduct raids, execute search warrants or arrest individuals belonging to criminal and terrorist organisations. (Source) (Source)

The units best equipped and trained to implement these tactics are SOBR and OMON units. Unlike regular law enforcement, these units are primarily trained to execute high-risk counter-terrorist and anti-organised crime operations and are given the tools to do so effectively. 

5.3.2 Hostage Rescue

Rosgvardia’s units are also known for their rapid and aggressive approach to conducting hostage rescue operations. Though many of its political tactical units (PTU) utilise hostage negotiators, drawing out and eliminating hostage-takers is their preferred approach. To enable PTU units to do this effectively, they use sniper teams, breach teams and heavy equipment. (Source) (Source)

5.3.3 Riot Control

As well as using lethal force, many of the organisation’s units are also trained to disrupt and suppress protests. To this end, they employ various forms of riot gear and vehicles to disperse and arrest protestors. A preferred tactic for disrupting riots, especially within OMON units, is the use of kettling. This tactic involves boxing in protestors with units in riot armour and shields. (Source)

OMON PTU team during training (Source)

5.4 Personnel Size

Though estimates vary, the latest figures put Rosgvardia’s manpower at around 340,000 personnel. In spite of its important role in the future, the current will limit the pool of prospective recruits the organisation can exploit to grow. (Source)

6.0 The Future For The Rosgvardia

Undeniably, Rosgvardia’s role is contingent on the stability of Russia in the near future. Perhaps not unexpectedly, some measures appear to be undertaken to curb and deter future challenges to the system. In a bid to prevent the exploitation of instability after Wagner’s mutiny, the Rosgvardia may be re-armed, possibly with weapons handed over to it by Wagner. (Source)

In addition, the Rosgvardia may be responsible for countering future threats against Ukrainian-supported hostile elements inside of Russia. Various groups, such as the Ichkerian OBON and RVC, will likely continue and expand their raids into Russia. To negate the effects of this, Rosgvardia’s core task may be to disrupt these groups’ actions and liquidate them. (Source)

Whilst either of these scenarios is plausible, it is uncertain whether they will come to fruition. Should conditions for the Russian state become more favourable in Ukraine, stability could improve. On the flip side, if the above-mentioned scenarios were to pan out, it is unclear if Rosgvardia would be able to deal with them given its response to Wagner’s mutiny. Potentially, reports of GROM units being embedded into the Rosgvardia may increase its efficacy in doing so. (Source)

7.0 Conclusion

The Rosgvardia is a foundational element of Russia’s internal security apparatus. As well as engaging in invaluable police tactical unit roles, the Rosgvardia also serves a coup-proofing function for the existing Russian political system. To this end, the Russian state may become increasingly equipped in order to respond to future threats to internal stability

However, the Rosgvardia contains organisations within it that make it more than just being security muscle for the Russian state. Numerous organisations with it are also focused on engaging in research, design and education. In that sense, the Rosgvardia also holds value when it comes to evolving the Russian state’s internal security capabilities through innovation.

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