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Monday, July 09, 2007

An Uncivilized Country, Part VII: They Have Secret Armies

Zee News reports on the new "Gazprom Army" that will operate outside the law and perhaps be controlled directly by Vladimir Putin:

Russian gas giant Gazprom and pipeline monopoly Transneft will be given the right to set up armed security forces under a bill passed by Russian lawmakers on Wednesday. The bill allows the two state-controlled companies to use guns and anti-riot equipment such as tear gas to prevent attacks on pipelines and other installations "necessary for state contracts." Gazprom or Transneft Security Officers would also be given the same rules of engagement as state law-enforcement bodies, which are much broader than for private security companies. Russian pipelines have come under attack numerous times by separatist rebels and Islamist fighters in the war-torn north caucaus region and other parts of Russia in recent years. Critics said the bill would allow for the creation of private armies. "This law envisages the creation of corporate armies ... we are opening a Pandora's Box because there are other companies that will now strive to set up their own army," said Gennady Gudkov, a lawmaker from the A Just Russia Party. Under current legislation, companies such as Gazprom and Transnet are only allowed to hire external security firms, which have limited rights on bearing and using weapons. The bill has now been sent to the Federation Council, the Upper House of Parliament, and will then be put before President Vladimir Putin for final approval.

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