The Russian Duma has today voted in favour of allowing Gazprom to form its own private army. Reuters reports:
A law backed by 341 lawmakers in the 450-seat State Duma lower house of parliament gave Gazprom, and oil pipeline monopoly Transneft, special exemption from strict limits on private businesses wielding arms.
The two state-controlled companies will for the first time be allowed to employ their own armed operatives instead of contracting an outside security firm. Their armed units will also have access to more weapons and more freedom to use them than private security companies.
The stated reason: to ensure the protection of gas pipelines and facilities from militants.
My cynical response: so much for the mighty Russian army.
Anyway, opponents of the bill are warning that today’s move risks opening a pandoras box, as they believe that where Gazprom leads, other Russian companies are sure to follow.
The only silver lining, I suppose, is that the bill still has to pass the Federation Council, and be approved by Putin before it becomes law.