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Russia: Yeltsin May Create Military Police Force By Decree

Moscow, 14 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Russian President Boris Yeltsin may create a military police force in Russia by decree because the State Duma has failed to do so.

The Defense Ministry says the force is desperately needed to fight crime within the Russian armed forces.

Alexei Rumyantsev of the Defence Ministry's press service told our correspondent that the presidential Defense Council will debate the issue, among others, later this month. Rumyantsev said he expects the outcome to be a presidential decree.

A draft law, prepared by staff of the Duma's Defense Committee, has been endorsed by the Federal Border Guard Service, Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service, and the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office. These agencies agree that the military police should be an independent service reporting directly to President Yeltsin, and be immunized from pressure from Russia's power ministries.

But the Defense Ministry claims that it has enough resources to set up a full-fledged military police force under its own command within one year. It says this would enable savings of millions of rubles that setting up an independent service otherwise would entail.

The Defense Ministry's Lieutenant General Vladimir Kulakov recently has been outspoken in the press advocating prompt creation of a military police. He says that draft-dodging comprises half of military crimes related to the military service, with desertion another major problem.

In addition to chasing down deserters and draft-dodgers, Kulakov says, military police should be empowered to investigate financial misdeeds.