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Russian politicians, experts divided on Medvedev's police reform
December 25, 2009

Most Russian politicians and experts have welcomed Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev's decree on reforms in the Interior Ministry, but at the same time doubted that the Interior Ministry can be radically changed.
Proposed changes in the Interior Ministry "are quite timely", member of the State Duma Security Committee Aleksandr Gurov told Ekho Moskvy radio on 24 December, according to the Ekho Moskvy news agency. He said: "There are no surprises here, because all these issues are long overdue but no measures were taken before".

"Cuts are needed. Police is overstaffed, the productivity is 40 per cent, and policemen themselves say it's even smaller. A 20-per cent cut is the first step, although I think it could have been bigger," he said.

The deputy stressed that cuts should affect office staff rather than common policemen.

"As for rotation of personnel, this is an absolutely necessary measure. The president's decree will break corruption ties which have become solid over many years," he added.

Head of the Public Chamber commission for supervising the law-enforcement bodies and reforms in the court system lawyer Anatoliy Kucherena told RIA Novosti on 24 December that he totally supports the president's decree. "We believe that some duplicating structures should be abolished and the money should be used to provide social help to policemen, to increase their allowances and salaries," he said.
Kucherena also supported the decision to finance police through the federal budget, "so police will not depend on regional authorities," he said.

He said his committee will take active part in carrying out reforms at the Interior Ministry, Interfax reported on 24 December.

A source at the Interior Ministry told Interfax on 24 December that the reform will not lead to cuts in departments which are directly involved in the fight against crime. He said cuts will first of all be applied to vacant positions. "Probably the office staff will be optimized, as well as several departments which duplicate each other," the source said.

Experts on regional policies differ on how the president's decree will affect the situation in the regions and local police.

"This is a necessary and long-awaited step, which we have discussed for many years," Public Chamber member Vyacheslav Glazychev told RIA Novosti. He believes this is a step towards creating a single federal structure. However, the expert had doubts that reforms can be carried out by the existing police staff.

Head of the independent union of the veterans of the Interior Ministry and Prosecutor's Office of Dagestan Magomed Shamilov welcomed the idea to have one source of financing for police. "Financing from different sources breeds corruption... If only the federal centre finances the Interior Ministry and controls the finances, this will be a great success," Shamilov told RIA Novosti on 24 December.

A representative of the Interior Ministry of another southern Russian region, which wished to remain unnamed, also believes that the strengthening of the centre's influence will positively affect police. "The less police depend financially on local administrations, the more order there will be," he told RIA Novosti.

A majority of Russian lawyers have welcomed Medvedev's decree but believe it is impossible to change the Russian police until society as a whole is changed. The lawyers also supported the idea to increase policemen's salaries so they are not tempted to make extra cash on the side.

Lawyer Andrey Romashov, representing Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Storchak, who is accused of embezzlement, told RIA Novosti that the proposed changes are very good but the problem has been neglected for too long. "I can only welcome these measures, they are long overdue," the lawyer said. At the same time he refused to speculate on how the measures will increase the police's efficiency, because "the problem with our police has been neglected for too long".

Lawyer Andrey Borovkov, who represents exiled businessman Boris Berezovskiy, does not believe that the law-enforcement bodies can be improved. "There will be no radical changes," he said.

The same view was expressed by Vadim Klyuvgant, lawyer of former head of Yukos Mikhail Khodorkovskiy, who believes the problem lies not in police but in society. "Policemen will not work better for no reason. Policemen are recruited not from the outer space, they are part of society and there will be no squeaky clean policemen until society becomes normal," the lawyer said.

Former policeman and now lawyer Aleksandr Chernov, who represents Aleksey Polovinkin in the First Deputy Chairman of the Central Bank Andrey Kozlov murder case, noted that talks about reforms in police had been going on for a long time. He said policemen's incomes must be increased "because the bigger and the more stable a policeman's salary is, the more he will think about work rather than survival," Chernov said.

Lawyer Ruslan Zakalyuzhnyy, who defends suspects in the assassination attempt on former national grid head Anatoliy Chubays, said the proposed measures are not enough. He thinks it would be better to abolish the present system of law-enforcement bodies and create a new one from scratch. "It's good that the president is doing something. But I support a rather radical view that it is impossible to carry out reforms with the current staff of the Russian Interior Ministry. To improve the situation, the system must be abolished and a new one created," he said.

Lawyer Aleksey Dudnik, who represents former Yukos treasurer Andrey Leonovich, believes reforms in the Interior Ministry cannot radically change the situation. "I think at least two generations are needed before people with a new understanding of their tasks come to the Interior Ministry," Dudnik said.

Lawyer Aleksandr Dobrovinskiy, who defends former head of Arbat-Prestizh Vladimir Nekrasov, is confident radical measures are needed, including in the personnel area, to achieve success.

"I think the ministry is rotting away and is unable to perform its duties if it keeps the same people. I believe the Russian Interior Ministry has reached the impasse," Dobrovinskiy said.

Lawyer Igor Trunov described the president's initiatives as "undoubtedly positive". He said the Interior Ministry must let go all departments not directly involved in keeping law. "If the ministry auctions lands, clinics, stadiums and other similar facilities, this will not only return the money spent on reform but will bring even more money," the lawyer said. Trunov welcomed the plan to finance police only through the federal centre.

"This is good because police bureaucracy has grown, mainly at the expense of regional budgets. Police depends on regional princelings and barons," he said. He also said that cutting police forces by 20 per cent is not enough.

The president's decree will change nothing if it is carried out by incumbent Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev, chairman of the coordination council of the trade union of Moscow policemen Mikhail Pashkin told Ekho Moskvy radio on 24 December.

"If the current interior minister is instructed to see to the cuts, this will end in nothing. The most experienced officers will be sacked, as it always happened, the unwanted people will be removed, and the controlling bodies and office staff will be untouched. If this is so, Medvedev's decree will fizzle out, nothing will change," he said.

The Russian opposition believes that the announced changes in the Interior Ministry can hardly be called reforms.

"This is not a reform. It is obvious that there is no wish to seriously change anything. Other people must come and the system must change," head of the executive committee of The Other Russia coalition Eduard Limonov told Interfax on 25 December.

He said the announced measures were probably meant to "appease public opinion".

"I am one of the first who called for the dissolution of OMON (special purpose police force)," Limonov said, adding that this police force is often used against the opposition's peaceful actions.

On 24 December, leader of the For the Human Rights movement Lev Ponomarev described the announced changes in the Interior Ministry as "half measures".

He said human rights activists proposed more serious steps, for instance to make the internal security department independent from the Interior Ministry. Ponomarev said this would make it possible to fight corruption more efficiently.

"I am very happy that the president is dealing with this. Human rights activists have been talking about this for a long time," head of the Moscow Helsinki Group Lyudmila Alekseyeva told RIA Novosti on 24 December.
She noted that the decree was timely. "We will wait to see what happens next and will try to make sure that this does not turn into window dressing of the ministry, which has totally lost people's trust," Alekseyeva said.

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