- The Washington Times - Friday, April 22, 2016

Less than a month after President Vladimir Putin ordered the creation of a new domestic police force, lawmakers in the State Duma took the first steps towards expanding the newly-formed National Guard’s authority, including a recommendation to authorize them to shoot into crowds.

The Duma’s Committee on Defense made the recommendation this week, The Moscow Times reported Thursday.

Mr. Putin established the unit earlier this month by signing a presidential decree that called for creating a police force to combat terrorism and organized crime. But the rapid attempt to broaden the group’s authorities so soon after its creation has critics questioning the National Guard’s actual role.

Under Mr. Putin’s decree, the Guard is prohibited from using weapons during instances where there is “a large gathering of people, as a result of which random people may be affected,” Moscow Times reported.

But backers of the Duma’s proposal argue that the restriction could limit the Guard’s ability to respond to terror attacks and hostage situations.

“We believe that in these cases the risk of harming random individuals will be justified,” the committee said in a statement, Russia’s RBC News reported.

Yekaterina Schulmann, a political scientist and associate professor at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, told the Moscow Times that presidential decrees are rarely revised unless done so by the chief of the president’s security service, Viktor Zolotov. Should the effort succeed, though, then Ms. Schulmann says the Duma will effectively transfer the powers of the riot police and interior troops to an new, unilaterally created unit.

“The question is that these powers are extremely wide and it’s practically impossible to receive any compensation if damage is caused,” she told The Moscow Times.

The full Duma is scheduled to consider the committee’s recommendation during a May 18 hearing, IB Times reported Friday.


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