Russia's EMERCOM: Managing emergencies and political credibility


  • Roger Roffey

Publish date: 2016-05-26

Report number: FOI-R--4269--SE

Pages: 108

Written in: English


  • MChS
  • CBRN
  • civil defence
  • civil defence troops
  • natural disasters
  • National Crisis Management Centre
  • NCMC
  • search and rescue service
  • rescue military units
  • technological disasters
  • industrial accidents
  • emergencies
  • RSChS


The occurrence of extreme weather events and natural disasters, such as flooding and wildfires, is increasing in Russia. This report presents and discusses examples of natural disasters with a focus on how EMERCOM and the government have handled these emergencies and their consequences. In a relatively short time, the present defence minister Sergei Shoigu has transformed a volunteer search and rescue team into a ministry called EMERCOM. This is an impressive organisation with vast resources in personnel (including military personnel), equipment and means of land, air and water transport. This report analyses the Russian system for disaster management, including the further developed Unified Emergency Prevention and Response State System. Disaster management harbours the potential of becoming an embarrassment for the political leadership if emergency response is perceived as ineffective. This is why control from above is the rule while blame is assigned to regional or local levels. This in turn results in subordinate levels being hesitant to take independent decisions for fear of being blamed afterwards. The way in which some recent natural disasters have been handled is a good illustration of this. During the wildfires in 2010, the authorities' handling of emergencies was furthermore questioned in independent social media. To improve its international reputation, EMERCOM has increased its international cooperation with the UN, the EU and bilaterally. Enhanced disaster relief activities are carried out in several conflict zones, for example in eastern Ukraine and in Syria.