Why 'Putin's personal army' chief visited Turkey
Viktor Zolotov, the head of Russian National Guard, also known as Vladimir Putin's personal army, paid a surprising visit to Turkey's capital.
By Metin Gurcan*
The unannounced visit to Turkey of the chief of the Russian National Guard — an internal security establishment also known as Vladimir Putin’s personal army — will undoubtedly be given hard scrutiny by Western capitals amid increasing criticism of Turkey’s drift away from its NATO allies.
Viktor Zolotov, the head of the Russian National Guard, Rosgvardiya, a security unit
that oversees anti-
The delegation of 11 officials led by Zolotov held talks with several Turkish security
officials, the sources told Al-
Zolotov, whose special force of 200,000 provides policing and military capabilities, is an influential name when it comes to Russia’s security policies. As a close friend of Putin, Zolotov recently made headlines in Russia by ridiculing the country’s opposition leader Alexei Navalny by challenging him to a duel.
Zolotov’s visit wasn’t announced prior to his arrival and was low profile for the
most part. The Turkish news media said the goal of the visit was information sharing
between the Russian National Guard and Turkish gendarmerie forces. Accordingly, Russians
wanted to learned the general structure of the Turkish Gendarmerie Command and its
operations and to work toward beneficial sharing of information between two states
that have close historical and cultural ties. As Al-
Zolotov was accompanied by Turkey’s Gendarmerie Commander Arif Cetin throughout his
visit. The two also signed a memorandum of understanding that covers cooperation
in public order, public security, protection of state facilities, combating extremism
and sharing intelligence about cross-
The two organizations have many common functions. In Russia, Rosgvardiya is responsible for protecting power plants, bridges, dams, ports, tunnels and other critical infrastructure. It is also tasked with protecting lives and properties of key officials. International news media frequently report that Rostgvardiya has very close relations with some private paramilitary companies and even owns some of them.
Given that Rosgvardiya, with its extreme influence over private security companies, is tasked with special missions such as restraining societal unrest, suppressing the opposition against the Putin administration, protecting critical facilities and persons, it is important for it to engage in cooperative activities in Turkey. For example, it could offer security services for the Akkuyu nuclear power plant, which is being constructed by Russia's State Atomic Energy Corp., and the Turkstream natural gas pipeline; Rosgvardiya also could engage in training and exercises with its Turkish partner to ensure public order. Rosgvardiya’s military and personnel could come to Turkey for medical care, training, exercise and even vacations without any restrictions. It could be the trainer, coordinator and even partner of private security firms in Turkey. Of course this extent of cooperation would include sharing intelligence on terror organizations and organized crime.
Zolotov’s contacts were limited to the Interior Ministry’s Gendarmerie Command and the coast guard. This means that Zolotov didn’t hold any direct contact with the Turkish army, which is a NATO element. However, it is worth remembering that the gendarmerie and the coast guard work in an integrated way with the Turkish military in combating terror in southeast Turkey and in patrolling the seas. Thus, in a way, Rosgvardiya will be in touch with the Turkish military and even cooperate with it.
It’s as yet unclear whether the Turkish military will join this honeymoon period
between the Turkish Gendarmerie Command and Rosgvardiya. Another important question
is whether Russian security private firms affiliated with Rosgvardiya will be given
access to the Turkish private security sector. Above all, what will be the effects
of the cooperation with Rosgvardiya on the institutional identify of the Turkish
security sector’s established pro-
No doubt, experts in Western capitals and at NATO have already begun discussing the answer to these questions by scrutinizing Zolotov’s visit.
*Metin Gurcan is a columnist for Al-