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New Investigative Agency Starts Work In Russia

September 7, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- A powerful new Russian law enforcement agency called the Investigative Committee has began work.

The Investigative Committee, which Russian officials say is loosely modeled on the FBI in the United States, will be chaired by Aleksandr Bastrykin, a former law-school classmate of President Vladimir Putin.

"In my opinion, the establishment of the Investigative Committee is a meaningful step forward," Boris Gavrilov, an investigator with the Russian Interior Ministry, told RFE/RL's Russian Service. "Most importantly, this can in the future become a Federal Investigative Service."

The Investigative Committee will operate independently from the Prosecutor-General's Office, and will actually usurp some of its powers.

It will conduct criminal investigations against senior government officials and State Duma deputies as well as particularly important cases like the assassinations of journalist Anna Politkovskaya and Deputy Central Bank Chief Andrei Kozlov.

The post of prosecutor-general, meanwhile, has been stripped of its authority to oversee investigations, seize property, and initiate criminal cases. The head of the Investigative Committee, moreover, can initiate criminal investigations against the prosecutor-general -- but not vice versa.

RFE/RL's Russian Service reports that Bastrykin signed a decree today transferring more than 18,000 employees from the Prosecutor-General's Office to the Investigative Committee.

In order to fight corruption in the new agency, investigators will have their salaries increased -- the average investigator will earn 40,000 rubles ($1,564) a month -- and will have cameras and listening devices placed in their offices to monitor their activities.

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