President Putin wants to turn Russia’s National Guard into his own army for domestic use, a top Kyiv official has claimed.
Mykhailo Podolyak, chief adviser to the Ukrainian Presidential Office, said Putin was severely weakened by the aborted Wagner coup against the Kremlin and is now taking steps to shore up his power.
“After Prigozhin's foiled riot, Putin proved that he is not a tsar, but a jester, a coward unable of decision-making, tending to flee,” he said on the telethon in comments reported by Espreso TV.
“Russia doesn’t love him anymore. That's it, Putin’s no longer ‘sacred’.”
Podolyak said that eventually the move would backfire and the National Guard could turn against the Russian leader because people in Russia love a “strong tsar.”
He added this would not happen immediately as, at the moment “a political group has not been formed that could seize power and replace Putin.”
Podolyak’s assessment comes after Russian lawmakers passed a bill on Wednesday that would allow its National Guard to deploy heavy weapons – including tanks – on the streets of the country in the wake of the short-lived insurrection by the mercenary group Wagner.
Since it was formed in 2016 as a means of controlling and stopping public demonstrations, the National Guard’s role has since taken on a broader remit including participation in Moscow's full-scale war on Ukraine.
According to the legislation passed by parliament's lower house, the force, which answers directly to Putin, will be able to be armed with military-grade weapons, including heavy weapons.
The bill was approved after the Russian defence ministry said it had taken possession of military hardware from Wagner mercenaries following their aborted uprising last month.
The legislation comes as the Kremlin seeks to bolster its security apparatus in response to the mutiny instigated by the chief of the Wagner PMC, Yevgeny Prigozhin in an attempt to topple the country's top military command.
While the bill still has to be approved by the upper chamber and approved by Putin, these are steps that are considered to be a formality.
You can also highlight the text and press Ctrl + Enter