Russian President Vladimir Putin is creating a network of shadowy private military companies across Russia to protect himself from another Wagner uprising.

Plans for private military companies, or “special companies,” are laid out in a new bill raising the conscription age for the Russian military.

According to a statement by Duma defense committee chairman Andrey Kartapolov, the move is intended to counter sabotage and internal threats.

It comes weeks after the mutiny by the Russian mercenary group Wagner exposed loopholes in Putin’s defences.

The group’s fighters met little resistance when they seized control of the city of Rostov-on-Don on June 23, then advanced on Moscow before rebel leaders struck a deal with the Kremlin and halted the riot.

Although Putin has not punished Yevgeny Prigozhin, the riot leader, he has launched a search for suspected traitors in the Russian military. He appears to fear future internal threats to his power.

According to the report, Putin’s militias would be under regional governors’ command, operate at Putin’s behest, and be armed by the Russian Defense Ministry.

The Barents Observer, a Norwegian media outlet, stated that the mission of the units is to “protect the state border, fight against illegal armed groups and combat foreign sabotage and intelligence formations” as well as quell internal threats.

It is unclear how the militias will interact with other military and intelligence apparatus branches. Russia already has a national guard, and layers of security protect Putin.

A former Kremlin official, Nikolai Sokov, told The Daily Beast that the law was intended to strengthen Putin’s defenses.

“They are a tool to strengthen security [important given the very active clandestine actions of Ukrainian military intelligence] and can, if necessary, help against any new mutiny,” Sokov said.

Another essential role of the militias will be defending against internal attacks in the wake of a series of Ukrainian drone attacks on Russian cities.

Russia’s faltering invasion of Ukraine has revealed that Putin’s grip on power may not be as firm as once believed, with former intelligence officials telling Insider that further serious setbacks in Ukraine could lead to Putin’s removal from power.

Tom Porter