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Russia: Moscow Mounts Efforts To Combat Crime

Moscow, 10 January 1997 (RFE/RL) - Despite registering a statistical decline of crime, Moscow and other Russian cities plan this year to augment their police forces with special Interior Ministry troops.

According to Moscow's police spokesman Vladimir Zubkov, street crime fell by 15 percent last year totaling 17,245 cases in Moscow. The number of crimes committed in all public places fell by 12 percent totaling 22,721 cases last year in the Russian capital. Zubkov went on to say that this year some 10,000 Interior Troops (VV) will be added to 4,000 strong police force in the capital. The VV "will be of great help," Zubkov said.

VV have been patrolling Moscow streets and standing guard at the city's key facilities ever since local law enforcement agencies were placed on alert in late 1994 to fend off possible attacks of Chechen separatists.

VV are allowed to carry only clubs on the streets, although they maintain full combat readiness to repel possible terrorist attacks in the Russian capital. But "It doesn't matter really that much what arms they carry as long as they stick to backing up regular police patrols," said Zubkov.

Last year, President Boris Yeltsin issued a decree providing for aggressive law enforcement actions against Moscow's crime world. The decree called for a significant increase of police, VV and tax police manpower. Local courts and prosecutor offices were to be strengthened as well.

Since then the Moscow district VV commander Arkady Baskayev has ordered 10,000 servicemen to police the city. They are to be deployed during coming weeks or months.

According to Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov, the VV reinforcements should play a major role in ensuring security in public places. "Local police capabilities are not unlimited," Kulikov wrote in "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" last month. He also wrote that VV academies have already began training their students to fight street crime. Kulikov wrote that currently more than 100 Russian cities use VV patrols on the streets. The Interior Ministry has some 250,000 VV under its command.

The ministry's 1996-2000 operational plans provide for VV to start enforcing law and order in every Russian province on a daily basis together with local police. To meet these goals, the ministry will have to be given a much greater share of the federal spending. It is uncertain whether this could be easily accomplished.

But Kulikov's plans to expand the VV role may have public support. "To put it simply: the more the safer," said 21-year old Muscovite Vitalya Medvedeva, who says that she still hardly encounters any police patrols while returning from work in the evening to her home in southern Moscow.