On Jan. 28, the Duma began discussing the possibility of legalizing private military companies in Russia. The law, which counts influential vice prime minister Dmitry Rogozin as a supporter, has one major goal — to ensure that Iraqi oil fields where Russian firms Rosneft and Gazprom operate no longer come under the protection of British or American security companies.
Back in April 2012, Russian president Vladimir Putin pointed out the need for Russia to pass contractor-friendly legislation. Putin praised private military companies as “instruments to further national interests without the direct involvement of the government.”
The right-wing A Just Russia Party proposed a draft of the PMC bill in November 2014, but the Duma defense committee rejected it. Members of parliament returned with a revised text in December 2014, which the committee again turned down, deeming it “inarticulate,” “useless” and “irrelevant.” The FSB security agency and the Ministry of Defense both voiced concern of one day seeing “tens of thousands of uncontrollable Rambos turning their weapons against the government.”
It seemed Russian authorities had not forgotten the chaotic 1990s, a time when countless unpaid military officers sold their services to the highest bidder.
There are also deeper concerns. Most Russians are skeptical of military outsourcing. Only a few months after Putin’s speech in favor of PMCs, the Russian president dismissed Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov for his involvement in an outsourcing scandal. Serdyukov’s successor Sergey Shoygu reversed his predecessors decisions, bringing back into the military some functions that Serdyukov had contracted out to private companies.
Nevertheless, despite the legal vacuum numerous PMCs do exist in Russia. Although the Russian criminal code bans mercenary activities, the law’s wording is sufficiently vague that some private security firms have managed to survive.
RSB Group, arguably the most important Russian PMC, offers a wide array of services, from the protection of oil and gas installations and airports, to the provision of escorts for convoys in conflict zones or cargo vessels in piracy-stricken waters.
Besides this, RSB also provides mine-clearing services, military training, intelligence and analysis. Moran Security Group, another first-rate Russian PMC, offers teams for hostage-rescue and cargo-retrieval.
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