Putin’s new bodyguard includes thousands of elite special forces, tanks and fighter jets to make him ‘coup proof’, analyst says

Russia Vladimir Putin troops swords

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks to Russian military, National Guard, FSB and Interior Ministry personnel at the Kremlin in Moscow on June 27, 2023.SERGEI GUNEYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images

  • Putin has bolstered his national guard with elite special forces, arming them with tanks and warplanes.

  • The Russian president does not trust the loyalty of his security services following the Wagner mutiny.

  • The move is seen as making the Kremlin “coup-proof”, an analyst told The Telegraph.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has bolstered his national guard with an elite special forces unit to protect him in the event of another rebellion, British newspaper The Telegraph reported.

The National Guard, created by Putin in 2016, is 320,000 strong and reports directly to him rather than the Defense Ministry.

It is headed by Putin’s loyal former bodyguard, Viktor Zolotov, and its main duties have been to suppress anti-government protests.

A lawmaker from Putin’s United Russia party, Alexander Khinshtein, said Putin personally ordered the 7,000-strong Grom special forces unit to come under his command.

He also brought in tanks, warplanes and artillery to bolster the National Guard, described by analysts as his “praetorian guard”, drawing parallels with elite Roman imperial bodyguards loyal to the emperor, according to The Telegraph.

It is believed that following the Wagnerian Rebellion, Putin became concerned about the loyalty of his security services and military officers.

Russia approved changes to the National Guard’s statute earlier this week and said it can now be armed with “military equipment” to “suppress the activities of illegal armed groups”.

The move is an attempt by Putin to “protect the Kremlin from a coup”, Ben Noble, associate professor of Russian politics at University College London, told The Telegraph.

“The Kremlin is likely revealing its concern about possible future national challenges to its power,” he said. “The Prigozhin mutiny has increased the level of uncertainty regarding elite and popular support for the regime.”

Russian newspaper Vedomosti reported that Putin was using Grom to attract former Wagnerian fighters who did not want to join other mercenaries in exile in Belarus.

Andrei Soldatov, an expert with Russia’s security services, told the Telegraph the move was “significant”.

“Putin is restoring the command and control of special forces after the Prigozhin mutiny,” he said.

John Hardie, deputy director of the Russia program at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told The Telegraph the move was a victory for former bodyguard Zolotov, as Grom was the Interior Ministry’s last special police unit.

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