10/28/2009, 00.00
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Iraq, private Russian security guards instead of the foreign armies

Former Russian military troops guarantee the investment interests of the former Soviets in Baghdad. They boast of being "very diplomatic", unlike the Americans. But carry more weapons into the country.

Moscow (AsiaNews) - As foreign troops engaged in Iraq gradually reduced their presence to make way for the Iraqi army and police, new contractor security companies are elbowing in. Proud of "not being like the Americans of Blackwater" - the U.S. private military company banned from Iraq for excessive use of force - the new security experts in Iraq are now the former Soviet Union.

According to reports from the TV channel Russia Today, a special group of former Russian commando in the employ of Oryol – one of the biggest security companies in the Federation - is undergoing intensive training in preparation for their deployment in torn Middle Eastern country.

"Oryol (" Eagle ") - says the Russian broadcaster in, tied to the Kremlin - is composed of highly trained former military officers who are preparing to ensure the safety of Russian technical personnel, diplomats and commercial presence in Iraq”.  Employees include former Russian secret service agents. "Despite the strong background of our military men – says the head of the Oryol training Centre, Sergey Epishkin - one of the particular strategies we have adopted is a form of diplomacy, which allows us to have good relations with Western forces, Iraqi forces and the population”.

But in a country like Iraq, where more than 150 deaths in the attack Sunday in Baghdad point out that the situation remains incandescent, diplomacy alone does not seem sufficient. So Oryol has asked the Kremlin for adequate legislative support for its operations abroad, or a regulation that gives its contractors more freedom of action.

Indeed, unlike the infamous Blackwater colleagues, from a legal standpoint, the men of Oryol  are not considered a "private security force," but mere advisers. "We have no status, no rights - said one of the Centre instructors, Oleg Pyrsin - and if someone asks us why we are armed, we can only respond that it is for self-defence."

The need, explains Oryol, is for a legal framework that allows a softening of restrictions imposed on contractors on the use of weapons abroad. The Duma could consider the request soon, thus opening the door to other security companies.

Human rights activists, however, warn against the possibility that it may grant a summary "license to kill" not just terrorists but also innocent civilians. As was the case with Blackwater. Last year the Iraqi government declared the U.S. company "non grata" in the country, and did not renew its license for 2009, following the killing of 17 civilians in Baghdad in 2007 at the hands of its contractors.



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