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Reform still elusive in Russian police bill

Russian Policeman with Van Opposition MPs have found their hoped-for police reforms hitting a brick wall, but the public's concerns have made some headway in the controversial bill.

The proposals are now ending the second reading stage, and go up before the Security Committee on Thursday.

Opposition parliamentarians' amendments face almost universal rejection, Kommersant reported.

But for the first time the public was invited to contribute to the legislative debate online, and the blogosphere has carried some weight, anti-corruption organisation Transparency International told The Moscow News.

"We still don't have the final piece of legislation but we are really pleased that the right to include a phone call was included and the president has confirmed that the idea came from the discussion on the web," Ivan Ninenko, Transparency International deputy director, said by telephone.

An important gain

This was an important point, says Ninenko. This, and a requirement that police officers must wear a badge giving their name, photograph and department, are two of the five points they submitted which have got this far in the discussions.

But there are still some points to be clarified. "It is still not clear how it will be implemented, further details have not been given. But 2 out of 5 we are quite pleased with, and the right to a phone call is major," Ninenko said.

No real reform

"Quite a lot of things changed [in the bill] after the online discussion. But this is not reform and it shouldn't be interpreted as too positive. A phone call is a good thing... it is a small improvement but it is not a reform of the police force," he warned.

And the noises coming from Duma members who tabled amendments are far from positive. "Our most fundamental amendments were practically rejected," Gennady Gudkov of A Just Russia told Kommersant.

One of his concerns was that the police still have "unfettered access to any premises." Upon presentation of official ID they can enter anywhere, without special permission.

Unusual procedures

Usually, amendments to the second reading make their way to the Profile Committee, where they are then discussed and divided into two groups; accepted and rejected.

But for this bill the committee met for one day only, Wednesday, and the two groups had already been drawn up by an unknown party, Gudkov told Kommersant.

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