In May 2017 Russia enacted a law that made their armed forces subordinate to a new para-military organization formed in April 2016. This new organization was actually the revival of another Soviet tradition; a special armed force whose main purpose was to protect the rulers from disloyalty in the national police or military as well as from popular uprisings. President Putin is the main beneficiary because the commander of the new National Guard will be the man who was in charge of Putin’s personal security detachment for many years. What that new National Guard did not have initially was a crucial power the Soviet era KGB had, the ability to give orders to military commanders while being immune from any military control. The 2017 addition to National Guard authority was not unexpected and it was apparently left out in the original 2016 National Guard law to make sure it would not trigger a violent backlash. There was, and is, a backlash but one the current government, dominated by former KGB officers, could not handle.
This sort of thing is an ancient practice for totalitarian governments. Thus in pre-2003 Iraq Saddam Hussein had his Republican Guard, a force that was filled with the best paid, best armed men in the armed forces who were, above all, loyal to Saddam. All other successful dictatorships have similar forces. In Soviet Russia the secret police (KGB) employed over a million domestic spies and informers in addition to several divisions of troops trained and equipped to deal with rebellions by the population, or the armed forces. Iran has a similar force, the Revolutionary Guard that serves a similar role as the old KGB. The Saudi monarchy has its National Guard and surviving monarchies usually have a least a ceremonial remnant of the once powerful “guards.” Even the pope still has a Swiss Guard. Currently ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) had, for a short time. its 4,000 man “Shield of Islam” force which was composed of the most skilled and resourceful ISIL fighters, including many foreigners (especially hundreds of the much feared Chechens). During World War II, Adolf Hitler had the SS, Gestapo and his private army, the Waffen SS, all of which kept Germany fighting until the very end.
The new Putin version of the KGB army is being created by taking most of the armed forces available to the Interior Ministry (the national police and various riot control, SWAT and special operations forces) as well as investigators and intelligence experts and assigning them to the new National Guard which swears to protect the president of Russia (currently Putin), not the Russian people. The new National Guard is officially a “rapid reaction” force for dealing with terrorism or any other threat to Russia that requires quick and decisive action. It appears that by taking nearly all of the best trained and most effective units from the Interior Ministry the National Guard also weakens a potential foe. Putin, a former KGB officer, also made the National Guard immune to FSB (the post-Soviet KGB) oversight. Another interesting aspect of the National Guard is that the many para-military groups formed by the pro-Putin government of Chechnya are now considered part of the National Guard. For many centuries rulers throughout the region would hire Chechens as bodyguard because the Chechens were fierce, scary, resourceful and loyal if paid well and on time.