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'YouTube' Whistleblower Arrives In Moscow On Police Day, As Scandal Deepens

  • Brian Whitmore

Police officer Aleksei Dymovsky is followed by photographers ahead of his Moscow press conference.

Police officer Aleksei Dymovsky is followed by photographers ahead of his Moscow press conference.

His bank card and mobile phone were blocked. He was detained on the way to the airport. And he had a tough time buying a plane ticket.

But Aleksei Dymovsky, a police major in the Black Sea port city of Novorossiisk, managed to make it to Moscow, where he continued his campaign to expose what he called widespread malfeasance and corruption in Russia's law-enforcement bodies.

At a press conference in the Russian capital on November 10, Dymovsky held up a digital recorder and claimed to have taped 150 hours of incriminating conversations involving his superiors.

Dymovsky's recording is expected to include evidence backing his claims that superiors and colleagues on the Novorossiisk police force ordered false arrests, drug plants on innocent suspects, and taking bribes.

"Colleagues are calling me with their support and telling me to hang in there," Dymovsky said.

He also flatly denied accusations from officials in Novorossiisk that he is acting at the behest of Western powers, saying that his only contact with foreigners was "at the Chinese market" and during visits to Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine and Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The scandal initiated by Dymovsky is just the latest embarrassment for Russia's law-enforcement community, which has been accused by rights groups and the public of endemic corruption, incompetence, and brutality.

It also comes at a time of intensifying political infighting inside the Kremlin. And the fact that Dymovsky's allegations have been attracting a good deal of media attention has some analysts wondering if he has hidden support in high places.

"For a police major to just show up in Moscow in such a strange way and hold such a press conference is surprising for anybody who knows how our mass media works," says Moscow-based political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin. "It appears that somebody could be supporting him."

Indifference, Callousness, and Boorishness

Dymovsky's latest revelations follow two videos Dymovsky posted on the Internet last week that have since been viewed by hundreds of thousands of people on the YouTube video-sharing Web site.

In the first video, above, and a second one, Dymovsky alleged that police routinely fabricate criminal cases and imprison innocent people to cover up their inability to solve real crimes. He has since been fired for what his superiors said was slandering his colleagues.

A third video has since emerged showing Dymovsky in an apparent telephone conversation with one of his superiors, explaining why he made the original claims.

And adding to the air of intrigue, Dymovsky's allegations are gaining traction as Russia marks its Police Day holiday.

In a televised statement, Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev today appeared to grudgingly acknowledge Dymovsky's claims, saying that police need to "engage in a direct dialogue with the public" over allegations of abuse.

"To our deep regret, there are cases of police officers abusing their authority, demonstrating low moral values, indifference, callousness, and boorishness toward citizens, whose rights they are supposed to protect," Nurgaliyev said. "A police officer will deserve respect for his work only when every one of us understands the significance of his personal service to the citizen, the public, and the state."

Boris Dubin, the head of sociopolitical research at the Levada Center, tells RFE/RL's Russian Service that more than two-thirds of Russians do not trust the police and 64 percent say they do not work effectively. And the mistrust, Dubin adds, is combined with acute fear.

"The public fear the police even more than hooligans and criminals. The only thing Russians are more afraid of than the police are terrorists," Dubin said.

Dubin says police, for their part, are insecure about their low pay and "unstable" status in society.

'Urgent Concrete Measures’

Russia's police have come under increased scrutiny since April, when Denis Yevsyukov, a Moscow police officer, killed three people and wounded six more in a drunken shooting rampage at a supermarket. President Dmitry Medvedev fired Moscow's police chief several days after the shooting.

In May, Supreme Court Chairman Vycheslav Lebedev and Justice Minister Aleksandr Konovalov issued a report that singled out the Interior Ministry, which oversees the police, as Russia's most corrupt institution.

In October, Buryatia's Interior Minister Viktor Syusyura and his deputy were arrested in connection with an alleged jewelry contraband racket. Also in October, Medvedev sacked the chief of the Tuva region's police force, Viktor Lesnik, after a local policeman killed a fellow officer and then shot himself.

Dymovsky's allegations come at a time of intense clan warfare in the Kremlin, as security service veterans or "siloviki" surrounding Prime Minister Vladimir Putin battle for influence with technocrats close to President Dmitry Medvedev over Russia's future political and economic direction.

Analysts say Dymovsky's accusations are quickly becoming fodder for the Kremlin battle.

"Once this started to attract attention, a campaign criticizing the Interior Ministry began. It is completely possible that the major's actions are being used for this campaign," said Andrei Soldatov, editor of, an online publication focusing on terrorism and security services.

Dymovsky posted his videos on November 5 and Nurgaliyev initially ordered an investigation into the allegations on November 8. But hours later, a ministry spokesman announced that the investigation was complete, and that Dymovsky, a 10-year police veteran, had been fired for slandering his colleagues.

The Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor-General's Office has since said it has launched a preliminary investigation into the allegations, and State Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov said "urgent concrete measures" might be necessary if Dymovsky's claims turn out to be true.

At a press conference in Krasnodar on November 9, Dymovsky said he was being followed, his phone was tapped, and he feared for his family's safety. He said he was traveling to Moscow and had documents in his possession proving his allegations that he wanted to personally hand over to Putin.

Dymovsky was detained by traffic police on his way to the airport. Once released, he discovered that his bank card was blocked and he couldn't purchase a ticket. His mobile phone account was also mysteriously shut down.

He then traveled to Moscow by car, changing vehicles along the way for his safety, and arrived today.

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