18:56 Apr. 6, 2016
Troops will be allowed to shoot without warning if any delay in not using firearms is risk to lives
New Russian National Guard troops will be allowed to shoot without warning 'if delay in using them (firearms) could create a direct threat to the life or health of a citizen or National Guard soldier'.
That clause is buried in a draft law spearheaded by the Kremlin, to create a powerful, new security force across Russia. Under the plan, the country's riot police, rapid response forces and internal troops will be merged. Moscow says the new National Guard unit, led by Putin-confidant Viktor Zolotov, will focus on 'tackling terrorism and organized crime'.
But analysts and human rights groups argue, with the economic crisis fueling discontent, the new National Guard could be used to ward of any future unrest instead.
For example, article 20 of the draft law states armoured vehicles and water cannons can be used to disperse 'mass disturbances'. But as human rights activist Halya Coynash points out "what the Russian authorities consider mass disturbances is always in question, and frequently depends on the political position of those involved in an action."
Meanwhile, security analyst Mark Galeotti argues the Kremlin would not need such a security force if it was confident in future support. He writes "there is no real reason for creating the NG (National Guard) out of the Interior Troops (VV) and other forces unless you have a serious worry about public unrest."
What could potentially be more worrying is the appointment of Mr. Zolotov, the former bodyguard and judo sparring partner of Vladimir Putin. With his leadership, Galeotti argues "it is even more clearly a personal, presidential Praetorian force, under a maximalist loyalist. This may not only be a force to keep the masses in check, but also the elite".
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denies the newly-formed National Guard will be used to quell future protests against the government.
But with Russia's internal policies in question, the war in eastern Ukraine, economic stagnation and the whirl of theories of a western conspiracy to displace the current leaders, the threat of the National Guard going beyond its remit could be imminent.