Putin ramps up forces in Moscow to ‘coup-proof’ Kremlin following Wagner revolt

Vladimir Putin has bolstered his National Guard with an elite special forces unit replete with tanks, warplanes and artillery to protect himself against another rebellion.

In the wake of the Wagner Group mutiny of June 24, when hundreds of mercenaries marched on Moscow to detain two war chiefs, the Russian leader is beginning to “coup-proof” the Kremlin.

Putin personally ordered the 7,000-strong Grom special forces unit, known for its dogged approach to hunting down criminals, to join his National Guard, according to Alexander Khinshtein, an MP for the United Russia party.

The Russian autocrat is believed to be worried about the loyalty of his security services and military officers, which are known as his “Praetorian Guard”.

The Vedomosti newspaper reported that Putin is now using Grom to attract disenchanted former Wagner fighters who didn’t want to travel to Belarus to join other mercenaries in exile.

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Announcing the requisition, Khinshtein said all 7,000 members of the Grom unit, as well as its “entire infrastructure”, had been transferred to the control of the Kremlin.

He said: “By the decision of the president, the Grom unit is transferred to the Russian National Guard along with the staff and the entire infrastructure.”

In another statement, it said that the National Guard can now be armed with “military equipment” to “suppress the activities of illegal armed groups.”

Putin’s National Guard, headed by his loyal former bodyguard Viktor Zolotov, has now absorbed the Grom unit.

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The National Guard is made up of 320,000 personnel and is viewed as a cross between armed police and militia units whose main role has been to crush anti-Kremlin protesters.

But after the ease with which the Wagner Group marched from the southern city of Rostov-on-Don towards Moscow, Putin is believed to be questioning the loyalty of his stalwart defenders.

It has been reported that he is even trying to recruit Wagner mercenaries into the Grom unit to shore up support.

Ben Noble, Associate Professor of Russian Politics at University College London, said that this was an attempt by Putin to “coup-proof the Kremlin.”

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“The Kremlin is likely revealing its worry about possible future domestic challenges to its rule,” he said.

“Prigozhin’s mutiny has raised the level of uncertainty concerning elite and popular support for the regime.”

It took Russia’s parliament only two days to approve the changes to the Russian National Guard’s status earlier this week.

Analysts said the addition of the Grom troops would add another important capability to the National Guard.

“This is significant,” said Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russia’s security services. “Putin is straightening the special forces’ command and control after Prigozhin’s mutiny.”

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