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Internal Troops of the National Guard
Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs [VVMVD]

Russia's president signed a decree April 05, 2016 to create a national guard tasked with fighting terrorism and organized crime. The new federal agency will be led by Vladimir Putin's former chief bodyguard, Viktor Zolotov. Formed out of the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the National Guard, according to the president, will continue to work "in close cooperation" with the ministry.

Although a component of the armed forces, the Internal Troops were subordinate to the MVD. Numbering approximately 260,000 men in 1989, they were one of the largest formations of special troops in the Soviet Union. The Internal Troops were first established in 1919 under the NKVD. Later they were subordinated to the state security police, and then in 1934 they were incorporated into the expanded NKVD. They were back under the authority of the security police in the early 1950s, but when the MVD was established in 1954, control of the Internal Troops shifted to the MVD. The chief of the Internal Troops from 1954 to late 1987 was Ivan Iakovlev. Iakovlev's successor was Iurii Shatalin.

Like the regular army, the Internal Troops for the most part were composed of conscripts, who were obliged to serve for a minimum of two years. The Internal Troops accepted candidates for commission both from the ranks of the armed forces and from civilian society. The MVD had four schools for training members of the officer corps, as well as a separate school for political officers.

The Internal Troops supported MVD missions by supplementing the militsiia in ensuring crowd control in large cities and, in emergencies, by helping to fight fires. These troops also guarded large-scale industrial enterprises, railroad stations, certain large stockpiles of food and matériel, and certain communication centers that were strategically significant. One of their most important functions was that of preventing internal disorder that might threaten the regime's political stability. They took a direct role in suppressing anti-Soviet demonstrations in the non-Russian republics and strikes by Soviet workers. In this capacity, the Internal Troops probably worked together with the MVD Security Troops. There was little evidence to support the theory that the Internal Troops would serve as a counterweight to the regular armed forces during a political crisis. Most Internal Troops units were composed of infantry alone and were not equipped with artillery and tanks; in 1989 there was only one operational division of the Internal Troops in Moscow. According to some Western analysts, the Internal Troops were to perform rear security functions in the event of war, just as they did in World War II.

The September 1992 law 'On the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs' defines their responsibilities as:

  • assisting Internal Affairs organs in maintaining public order and public safety and in providing the necessary lawful procedures during a state-of-emergency;
  • protecting important state facilities, communications installations and special cargo as well as assisting in accidents involving nuclear material;
  • guarding forced-labor institutions, escorting convicts and prisoners.

In November 1993 the VVMVD had nearly 234,000 men, and following the breakup of the Soviet Union the Internal Troops became a component of the MVD entirely separate from the Armed Forces of Russia. As such, they are state organs intended to provide domestic security in peacetime which do not possess the organizational structure for conducting ground combat actions against a foreign enemy. Functions carried out by Russia's Internal Troops include disaster relief and security, counter-drug and counter-terrorism efforts, and peacekeeping operations.

Internal Troop organizational elements include:

  • operational large units (divisions and brigades) and troop units (regiments, separate battalions) comprising the MVD federal mobile reserve
  • special motorized troop units which support public order in most of Russia's large cities
  • large units and troop units for guarding important state facilities, including nuclear arms and nuclear energy complexes and also special cargo
  • large units and troop units for guarding forced-labor institutions [this responsibility, involving some 100,000 men, has been transferred to the criminal punishment system]

As of 1994 large units and troop units were subordinated to seven Internal Troop districts. The data are also difficult to interpret, because of lack of clarity about what is being counted. Russian numbers contrast sharply with The Military Balance numbers, both in terms of raw numbers and the general trend. For example, Kolesnikov stated in 1994 that the VVMVD had 350,000 troops, at a time when The Military Balance gave them half that number. By 1997 Kulikov and others were maintaining that the VVMVD possessed 257,000 troops, considerably lower than the 329,000 attributed to it by The Military Balance. The Military Balance does not provide enough details to figure out the changes over time, such as why 50,000 troops disappear in one year and reappear the next.

By 1998 the numerical strength of the MVD's Dzerzhinsky Division had been augmented from 6,000 to 10,000. By that time, the Sofrino Brigade [which had surrendered in October 1993 to Vice President Aleksandr Rutskoi but had undergone no subsequent purge of officers] from 3,000 to 6,000. Both formations are equiped with heavy weapons. Ten new MVD Internal Troops regiments were formed in Moscow alone, and special rapid-reaction detachments have been placed under Kulikov's personal control. Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov gave the MVD heavier weaponry, including armored Mi-24 "HIND" attack helicopters, armored fighting vehicles, anti-tank rockets, and 80- and 120-mm mortars.

A large percentage of the personnel attributed to the VVMVD in the 1990s were not troops in any meaningful sense of the word. Between 100,000 and 150,000 of VV personnel were prison and factory guards. Only around 70,000 of the Internal Troops were mechanized infantry with their own artillery and armored personnel carriers.

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Page last modified: 19-05-2016 20:25:03 ZULU