On December 1st 2019 the youngest structure of the Russian Armed Forces – the military police – celebrated its 8th birthday. The date of establishment of the law enforcement structure of the Armed Forces is considered to be “the day of formation of the General Directorate of Military Police of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation”. It was on the first day of winter 2011 that the department started its work, and since then the military police of the Russian Federation celebrates its professional holiday on December 1st.
The formation of the Institute of the Military Police (MP) is rooted in the 19th century: according to the provision “Institution for the Management of a Large Active Army,” signed on January 27th 1812 by Emperor Aleksandr I, military police chiefs appeared, ensuring law and order among Russian troops. In the Russian Empire the functions of the military police were performed by the Separate Corps of Gendarmes. After the February Revolution of 1917 the Provisional Government decided to abolish the corps and the security departments, including the gendarmerie police offices of the railways.
In the Armed Forces of the USSR, military commandants, acting on the garrison principle, dealt with issues of maintaining order and the rule of law, combating offences and crimes of military personnel. After the collapse of the USSR, the military commandants also disappeared. For the first time, the establishment of an institute of military police in perestroika Russia that would fight against unsavoury relations and other offences in the army was discussed in January 1992. However, the possible embodiment of this idea was returned only after 14 years: on January 31st 2006, at a press conference in the Kremlin, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that it is necessary to strengthen control over compliance with the rule of law in the Armed Forces.
In spring 2011 Anatoly Serdyukov, then head of the Russian Defence Ministry, announced the creation of a military police force. On December 1st 2011 the General Directorate of the MP of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation was formed. Despite the fact that this day is considered the date of the establishment of the Military Police, the department initially operated on the basis of departmental acts. In connection with the departure of Anatoly Serdyuk from the post of head of the Defence Ministry, the bill on the formation of the Military Police was sent for revision. The process of creating a new structure of the Armed Forces continued and was completed by Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu: on February 4th 2014 a federal law entered into force, which established the legal basis for the activities of the Military Police.
Today the Military Police is responsible for maintaining law and order and military discipline in units and divisions of the Russian Federation and abroad; protect military facilities and cargo; investigate war crimes; protect the life, health, rights, and freedoms of military personnel; and prevent offences in the army. The Military Police also provide comprehensive security during the “Army International Games”, the International Military-Technical Forum “Army”, the All-Russian Festival “Army of Russia”, and a number of other large-scale events. In fact, the Military police is the law enforcement of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation – a modernised military commandant’s office with similar tasks.
Another key function of the Russian Military Police is to oversee the reconciliation process of the warring parties in Syria, as well as to participate in activities that facilitate the return of refugees to pre-war places of residence. In December 2016, after the liberation of the Syrian city of Aleppo during the Russian military campaign, a battalion of the Russian Military Police was deployed there to maintain order in the liberated territories and assist the city authorities. To date, the military police units that carry out tasks in the Syrian Arab Republic are subordinate to the Russian Centre for Reconciliation of the Warring Parties. The domestic Military Police in Syria has, first of all, a peacekeeping mission – ensuring the law and order and the security of civilians in settlements liberated from terrorists, escorting cargo and humanitarian convoys, and protecting medical institutions. In addition, Military Police units are responsible for protecting the officials of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation and the Coordination Centre for Reconciliation of the Warring Parties, as well as the protection of aircraft and important facilities of the group of Russian troops on the territory of Syria. In the Syrian Arab Republic the Military Police of the Russian Armed Forces have done much to resume the activities of the United Nations peacekeeping force deployed in the area of separation between Syria and Israel in the Golan Heights. Beginning on August 2nd 2018, for the first time in six years, UN peacekeepers accompanied by Russian Military Police conducted patrols in the Golan Heights area along the “Bravo” line.
It is important to note that the leadership of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation pays increased attention to equipping the Military Police with the latest samples of weapons and military equipment taking into account the specifics of the tasks performed. In addition to small arms and communications equipment, the Military Police is provided with special means: traumatic weapons, electric shock devices, batons, handcuffs, shields, and individual means of photo-video recording. Armoured equipment has been adopted in battalions to implement special tasks. In particular, the Military Police unit carrying out tasks in the Syrian Arab Republic is equipped with “Tigr” armoured vehicles. In addition, Military Police units are equipped with unmanned aerial vehicles, long-range mobile communication sets, and night vision devices.
Thus, in recent years the domestic army law enforcement system has proved to be an effective tool in ensuring the rule of law and maintaining law and order in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, and has proved its viability and necessity of existence. Since 2014 the Russian Military Police has rapidly reached the level at which the MP of the advanced countries of the world are located. The high training of military personnel of this structure and the Syrian experience make it possible to highly appreciate the work of the Russian Military Police within the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation.
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