|Return of middle age?
RUSSIA'S Parliament has given two of the country's biggest energy monopolies the right to form armed units to patrol oil and gas pipelines, the country's economic lifeline.
A law, backed by 341 deputies in the 450-seat State Duma lower house, gives state-controlled gas giant Gazprom and state oil pipeline monopoly Transneft the right to employ and arm their own security units.
Legislator Gennady Gudkov, of the left-wing Fair Russia party, opposed the law, saying it opened the way for the creation of corporate armies in Russia.
Gazprom is already described by some observers as a state within a state: it controls some of Russia's biggest media outlets, has a watertight grip on gas exports and owns the country's third largest bank.
But the law's authors said it was needed to help the firms protect their infrastructure against militant attacks.
?A couple of terrorist acts and an ensuing ecological catastrophe would be enough to immediately declare Russia an unreliable partner and supplier of energy resources,? said Alexander Gurov, one of the deputies who drafted the law.
Gazprom owns all trunk pipelines transporting natural gas across Russia and exporting it abroad. Transneft controls Russia's oil and oil product pipelines.
Russia supplies almost a quarter of Europe's natural gas and is the world's second biggest exporter of crude oil, after Saudi Arabia.