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Russian police are funded through the national budget and their acquisition of equipment, including military-grade weapons, is regulated by legislation.  Firearms are purchased via the regular government procurement process.  Federal legislation defines rules for the application of firearms by police officers, which appear to be too restrictive from the police point of view.  Several bills aimed at expanding the right of police officers to use firearms were recently introduced in the legislature. 

I.  Introduction

Russian police forces operate under the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), which is a federal agency of the executive branch of the Russian Government.  Among other duties it is responsible for conducting federal criminal investigations, maintaining public order, patrolling highways, securing the safety of transportation, and guaranteeing the security regime for restricted territories and facilities.[1]

The MIA has its own armed forces, called Internal Troops, which are formed and equipped the same way as regular military troops but separate from them.  They use heavy and combat military-grade weapons to deal with serious crimes, terrorism, and other extraordinary threats and are better trained than the regular police.[2]  Internal Troops participate in emergency military-style operations, disperse crowds, and fight public disobedience.[3]

The MIA is financed through the federal budget.[4]  Military weapons, ammunition, and other equipment are purchased through public procurement procedures.[5]

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II.  Police Weapons and Equipment

A.  Federal and Local Police Forces

The most common service weapon used by the Russian police is the PM “Makarov” pistol, which is generally considered to be outdated.  It is gradually being replaced by more modern pistols.[6] The list of weapons used by the police force also includes Russian-made pistols, revolvers, submachine guns, and automatic rifles.[7]

Special means used by the police include rubber batons, handcuffs, tear gas, paint dispensers, sound-and-light means of distraction, means to destroy barricades, shotguns, armored carriers, water throwing cannons (including water jet machines manufactured in Israel),[8] and service dogs.[9]  Nonlethal weapons are also used by the police.[10]  Nonlethal weapons are more popular with the police officers because, unlike traditional firearms, their use does not entail mandatory prosecutorial review.[11]

B.  Special Police Forces (SWAT teams)

Weapons and equipment used by MIA Internal Troops and varied SWAT teams include military-type motor vehicles, armored personnel carriers, pistols, rifles, sniper rifles, automatic rifles and pistols, special underwater pistols and automatic guns, submachine and machine guns, and nonlethal weapons.[12]  Recently, the list of weapons used by police was extended to include foreign-manufactured weapons and equipment, such as pistols and submachine guns manufactured by Glock, Walther, and Heckler & Koch.[13]

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III.  Rules on the Use of Police Weapons

Legal grounds for application of physical force, firearms, and special means by police are established by Federal Laws on Police,[14] on the State of Emergency,[15] on the Interior Troops of the Russian Federation,[16] and on Weapons.[17]

All of these laws follow the general principle that before applying a firearm, a police officer must inform persons against whom the firearm is intended to be used that he/she is a police officer, warn of his/her intention, and give the person the opportunity and time to comply with police instructions.  If firearms are applied by a group of police officers the warning must be issued by one of the officers in the group.  However, the police officer has the right not to warn about the application of a firearm if a delay in doing so would create an immediate threat to the life and health of a person or an officer, or could result in other serious consequences.[18] 

Article 23 of the Law on Police gives an exhaustive list of circumstances in which the use of firearms by police officers is authorized:

  • Protecting other persons or themselves from a violent assault;
  • Preventing an attempt to seize firearms in service of the police;
  • Rescuing hostages;
  • Arresting people apprehended during the commission of grave crimes and attempting to escape, provided there are no other means to arrest them;
  • Arresting armed persons who refuse to follow orders to surrender weapons, ammunition, explosives, and poisonous and radioactive substances;
  • Suppressing riots and other illegal acts hindering traffic, the operation of means of communication, and organizations;
  • Repelling an armed attack; and
  • Preventing the escape of suspects and persons accused of committing a crime.[19] 

Additionally, a police officer has the right to use firearms in order to stop a vehicle if the driver refuses to comply with repeated demands of the police officer to stop and attempts to escape; to neutralize a dangerous animal; and where a person with an exposed firearm who is being arrested by a police officer attempts to walk up to the police officer, thus reducing the distance indicated by the police officer, or intends to touch the police officer’s firearm.[20]

Police officers are prohibited from using firearms against women, persons with obvious signs of disability, and minors when their age is obvious or known to the police officer.  Exceptions to this prohibition include armed resistance to the police officer, or committing an armed or group attack that threatens the life and health of individuals or police officers.[21]  A police officer cannot use a firearm in a large crowd and if random people may suffer as a result of such use.[22]

A police officer’s use of a firearm can constitute abuse of power, murder, or bodily injury under the Criminal Code where such use exceeds that which is necessary for self-defense and/or the defense of others, or necessary to arrest the perpetrator.[23]

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IV.  Recent Incidents and Controversies

Reportedly, each year there are almost twice as many murders of police officers in Russia than in the United States.[24]  Apparently, police officers are reluctant to use firearms because they are afraid to be criminally prosecuted for violations of self-defense rules.[25]  Police officers appear to be responsible for each shot and each used cartridge, and must prove that they acted legally and caused the least possible damage.[26]  According to a study, 86% of law enforcement personnel are in favor of the idea of further development of legal grounds and procedures for the application of firearms.[27]

Russian media regularly report on murders or injuries of police officers who[28] could not use their service weapons because of the risk of injury to passersby.[29]  In 2012, a criminal case was brought against a traffic police officer who shot and killed a criminal with his service weapon during a pursuit.  In response, forty-two traffic police officers from his police department wrote a collective letter to the police union to declare that they would no longer shoot runaway criminals out of fear of being jailed and would hand over their guns.[30]

After a series of recent incidents a bill that intends to give additional powers to the police to act in self-defense was included in the legislative agenda of the Russian State Duma (lower house of the legislature).  If passed, the police would be allowed to shoot even in crowded places, and the current ban on using firearms if it could result in the death of civilians would be lifted.[31]  Another recently introduced bill proposed giving the police officers the right to be tried by jurors when they are prosecuted for using indiscriminate force under article 286 of the Criminal Code. It is generally believed that trial by jury would make the conviction of police officers less likely.[32]

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Nerses Isajanyan
Foreign Law Consultant
September 2014


[1] Policing Profiles of Participating and Partner States: Russian Federation, OSCEPolis, http://polis.osce.org/ countries/details?item_id=31 (last updated Mar. 5, 2007).

[2] Peter Roudik, Policing the Russian Federation, in Comparative Policing: The Struggle for Democratization 143 (M.R. Haberfeld & Ibrahim Cerrah eds., 2008).

[3] OSCEPolis, supra note 1.

[4] Federal Law No. 3-FZ of Feb. 7, 2011, Sobranie Zakonodatelstva Rossiiskoi Federatsii [SZ RF] [Collection of Russian Federation Legislation] (official gazette, in Russian) 2011, No. 7, Item 900 (hereinafter Federal Law on Police) art. 48.

[5] A. Iu. Larin, Kommentarii k Zakonu Rossiiskoi Federatsii o Politsii [Commentaries to the Law of the Russian Federation on Police] 291 (Moscow, 2011).

[6] MIA is Not Reforming but Arming Itself, Svpressa.ru (Oct. 13, 2010), http://svpressa.ru/society/article/32045/ (in Russian).

[7] A. Iu. Larin, supra note 5, at 181.

[8] Aleksei Trubashev, Special Pistols for Special Forces, Gazeta.ru (July 19, 2006), http://www.gazeta.ru/ 2006/07/19/oa_208653.shtml (in Russian).

[9] Roudik, supra note 2, at 153.

[10] Vladimir Barinov, The Police Are Being Armed with “Osa, VPK.name (Mar. 28, 2012), http://vpk.name/news/66913_policiyu_vooruzhayut_osoi.html (in Russian).

[11] Id.

[12] Russian Federation Ministry of Internal Affairs, Internal Troops, Weapons and Military Equipment, http://vvmvd.ru/about/voorujenie/ (in Russian; last visited Sept. 5, 2014).

[13] Special Pistols for Special Forces, Gazeta.ru (July 19, 2006), http://www.gazeta.ru/2006/07/19/oa_208 653.shtml (in Russian).

[14] Federal Law on Police No. 3-FZ of Feb. 7, 2011, SZ RF 2011, No. 7, Item 900.

[15] Federal Law No. 3-FKZ of May 30, 2001, SZ RF 2001, No. 23, Item, 2277.

[16] Federal Law No. 27-FZ of Feb. 6, 1997, SZ RF 1997, No. 6, Item 711.

[17] Federal Law No. 150 of Dec. 13, 1996, SZ RF 1996, No. 51, Item 5681.

[18] See, e.g., Federal Law on Police No. 3-FZ, art. 22.

[19] Id. art. 23(1).

[20] Id. art. 24.

[21] Id. art. 23(5).

[22] Id. art. 23(6).

[23] A. P. Torshin and Others, Ekspertnii Doklad k Voprosu o Reformirovanii Rossiiskogo Oruzheinogo Zakonodatelstva [Expert Report on Reforming the Russian Weapons Legislation] 27 (Moscow, 2012),  http://torshin.ru/images/material-images/Doklad.pdf.

[24] Id. at 7.

[25] Konstantin Volkov, Deiatelnost Politsii po Protivodeistviu Prestupnosti [Police Crime Counteraction Activity], 2 Crim. J. Baikal Nat’l Univ. Econ. & L. 82 (2013), http://cj.isea.ru/pdf.asp?id=17301.

[26] Alena Sivkova, Police Powers for Self-Defense to Be Expanded, Izvestia.ru (Apr. 1, 2014), http://izvestia.ru/news/568406#ixzz2xbiLGsGg (in Russian).

[27] Volkov, supra note 25, at 84.

[28] Sivkova, supra note 26.

[29] Id.

[30] Id.

[31] Id.

[32] Maria Butina, The Right to Arms of Police Officers, Echo.Msk.ru (Dec. 24, 2013, 1:43 PM), http://www.echo. msk.ru/blog/maria_butina/1224557-echo/ (in Russian).

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Last Updated: 06/09/2015