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Russia Intensfies Fight Against Crime and Corruption

  • Simon Saradzhyan



Moscow, July 15 (RFE/RL) -- Alexander Lebed, secretary of Russia's security council, plans to set up a network of public monitors to track down suspected cases of corruption and nepotism in the Russian administrative and political establishment. RFE/RL has obtained a draft of Lebed's plan.

The plan envisages the establishment of an investigative agency to expose corruption and determine links between the politicians, government officials and criminal organizations.

Directly supervised by Lebed, the agency would be separate from the existing structure of the government. It would set up branches in all of Russia's administrative districts, cities and even large villages.

Its agents would have no official law-enforcing powers, but will concentrate on investigating abuses and crimes. They would act to help police and other law-enforcement bodies to cleanse Russia of what is described in the plan as "a strange love between commercial structures and state officials."

The plan also envisages a more vigilant supervision over political and administrative lobbying. It is estimated that every year trillions of rubles in federal subsidies are misused and wasted as a result of corruption.

Lebed's plans for the agency use as a model the notorious Committee of People Control, which used to investigate similar crimes during the Soviet era.

The plan says that a special attention will be given to Russia's heavily-subsidized agriculture which consumes trillions of rubles in state funds every year but is still unable to overcome the persistent crisis.

No date has been set yet for the establishment of the agency. Meanwhile, Lebed has been given broad responsibilities in combating crime in the Moscow area with an announcement of new government "emergency measures."

The measures were made public last week through a decree issued by President Boris Yeltsin. Entitled "Emergency Measures To Reinforce Order and To Strengthen Crime-Fighting in Moscow and the Moscow Region," the decree provides the local police, the tax police and customs agents with sweeping investigating powers. These include the right to confiscate property and funds concealed by businesses from their official records. It also puts all gambling establishments under tight control.

The decree gives the agents considerable financial incentives to do the job of investigating. A substantial part of the would-be confiscated funds and valuables are to be allocated to the agencies themselves. Until now, Moscow law-enforcers had no share in fines and confiscated funds.

The decree also calls for a significant increase of law-enforcement manpower in the Moscow area with a 18,671 new posts given to police stations in Moscow alone. Another 10,000 agents are to be recruited to form a "motorized" reinforcement of interior troops based in the capital city, while local courts and prosecutors" offices as well as Moscow tax police will get a total of 1,850 additional servicemen.

The decree follows closely Lebed's electoral platform. If it proves effective in reducing crime in the Moscow area, the measures could be used throughout the rest of Russia. Heads of Russia's law-enforcement agencies, including the Interior and Justice Ministries as well as the Federal Security Service, have already endorsed the decree as a pilot program for the entire country.

In the first six months of this year there have been 37.7 thousand crimes committed in the Moscow region - 1.3 percent less than during the same period of the last year. The number of serious crimes decreased by 9.7 percent. But, as everywhere else in Russia, only one-third of crimes committed in Moscow are said to be reported. The decree also introduces a sort of a witness protection system -- modeled on the program used by American law enforcement agencies -- to protect witnesses testifying about power abuses, official corruption and crime organizations.

The decree provides for "cleaning" Moscow of "beggars, homeless and criminal elements." The beggars and the homeless will have to leave the Moscow area. According to the decree, such street people may be detained for up to 30 days in special social rehabilitation centers and then deported from the Moscow area.

This measure is reminiscent of the "good old" Soviet days, when Moscow's dirty-looking vagabonds were seized and driven 101 kilometers away from the city limits only to return again.

Asked for an opinion, spokesmen for the Moscow police were cautious. "We have not been briefed on this decree yet," said Sergei Kiselyov of the Moscow police's press service. But both Kiselyov and other Moscow policemen readily praised the inclusion of fiscal incentives and personnel reinforcements into the decree.

Their retired colleagues turned out to be more forthcoming. "If all this gets implemented, it will help cleanse Moscow from criminal filth," said retired colonel Vladimir Grib of the Interior Ministry's Scientific Research Institute (NII MVD). Grib particularly praised the measures designed to facilitate deportation of street people.

But he and other NII MVD analysts said that ther implementation of the degree would depend on the introduction of new crime liegisation. This will be made much easier with the enactment of a new Crime Code, which was recently approved by both executive and legal branches of the federal government. The code is to come into force in 1997.
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