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27 Mar, 2018 16:51

Russian government rejects bill on private military contractors

Russian government rejects bill on private military contractors

The Russian government has rejected a bill regulating the work of private military companies, prepared by leftist party Fair Russia, saying that the document in its existing form is unconstitutional.

The review of the draft quoted by Interfax on Tuesday says that paragraphs regulating the work of private military and military-security companies are not in line with the part of the Russian Constitution that directly forbids the organization and work of public groups and unions that include the creation of armed units as an objective. Also, one article of the Constitution directly states that all issues of defense and security, war and peace, foreign policy and international relations, must be governed only by the authorities of the Russian Federation.

The Russian Defense Ministry, Finance Ministry, Foreign Ministry, the Federal Security Service, the Justice Ministry and a number of other state bodies have also rejected the draft.

The bill was drafted in January by the head of Fair Russia, MP Sergey Mironov, and another member of the center-left opposition party, MP Mikhail Yemelyanov. It allows the creation of private military companies in Russia and charges the defense ministry with the task of overseeing and regulating them. It would also allow Russian military contractors to participate in the protection of Russia’s national interests in foreign countries by providing various services in the defense sector.

In their explanations, the sponsors of the bill said that there are several hundred established private military companies in the world with total staff exceeding one million. These companies conduct active operations in over 110 countries and the total revenue in the sector amounts to hundreds of billions of US dollars.

This is not the first time Fair Russia has attempted to push a military contractor bill through parliament. In 2014, MP Gennady Nosovko drafted a similar document, but it was rejected by the defense ministry due to legal weaknesses and security fears.

Another draft was prepared in 2015 by members of the parliamentary majority party United Russia. It granted private military companies broader rights but allowed the defense ministry to use them as an immediate response to various threats. This bill is still in the parliamentary works. 

At around the same time, nationalist-populist party LDRP prepared a similar bill and drafted it to the legislature of Pskov Region. Unlike United Russia, the LDPR wants private Russian military firms to be controlled by the national security service – the FSB. According to the authors of the draft, this would make the contractors controllable and accountable for their actions and create conditions for further development of the sector.