ISW Blog: Russia in Review: Putin Deploys New Authoritarian Controls during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Key Takeaway: The Kremlin is using the COVID-19 pandemic to test an expanded societal control toolkit. The Kremlin has empowered Russian security services, deployed Russia’s national guard nationally, empowered the Ministry of Defense as a domestic actor for the first time, implemented mass digital surveillance, and further tightened control over Russia’s information space. The Kremlin seeks to expand its ability to control the Russian population in the long-term, as Russian President Vladimir Putin increasingly relies on authoritarian measures to preserve his regime…

The COVID-19 pandemic presented the Kremlin with opportunities to test existing societal control tools and implement new ones. Putin has steadily expanded his societal control tools since 2000, but the pandemic provided opportunities to refine them further under the pretext of quarantine enforcement. Putin will likely use these tools to suppress critics of the Kremlin’s July 1 national voting.

The Kremlin took several measures to increase the loyalty and power of the Russian National Guard (Rosgvardia) and police. Rosgvardia began its first country-wide enforcement of Russia’s quarantine in various cities on March 30.[3] 

ISW Blog: Russia in Review: Putin Deploys New Authoritarian Controls during the COVID-19 Pandemic