The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (SKRF) is, of course, the current bête noir of every liberal Russia-watcher, but beyond big bad Bastrykin and his press spokesman/vicar on earth/Mouth of Sauron Vladimir Markin, we hear and know very little about just who else its staff may be. I’m thus indebted to Sean Guillory for pointing me towards an article in Russkaya Planeta (a source I confess new to me) which cited data from a 2010 issue of that riveting page-turner The Journal of the Investigations Committee (Vestnik Sledstvennogo komiteta) which provide a slightly-dated but nonetheless fascinating snapshot.
At the time, the full-time complement of the SK was 19,156 people (excluding military personnel and civilian investigators working in the military but assigned to the Committee).
Of that complement, 29.9% had been there less than a year, 25.7% 1-3 years. (OK, the SK was formed in 2007, so technically no one had more than three years’ experience, but I take this to mean that the remaining 46.4% had been in the analogous element of the General Prosecutor’s Office, before it was floated off to form the SK.
At the district level, 79.7% of all staff are in their 20s, 17.2% in their 30s and 3.1% 40 years or older.
In 2009, 11.5% of the total establishment (1664 people) left the SK; in 2008, it was 19.2% (2396). Disciplinary charges were brought against 2449 (17%) of prosecutors, of which 2089 (14.4%) were SK operatives at the district level.
What conclusions would I draw?
- This is a pretty young and inexperienced force given its considerable importance within the Russian law-enforcement system. OK, it was a ‘new’ agency, but we should not overstate this; mostly, the SK was formed by floating off existing departments into a new structure.
- The SK offers pretty good salaries and not bad working conditions, especially compared with district prosecutors (the average monthly load is 2.2 cases). The high turnover is thus quite a surprise and also something of an indictment.
- That’s a lot of disciplinary charges. Does it help explain the turnover, as corrupt and inefficient investigators were sacked? I’d like to think so, and it may be part of the story, but I’ve seen nothing else to corroborate such a rosy take. I suspect that most of these charges were either dropped or dealt with administratively.
- Overall, and this is just a subjective sense, I suspect that Bastrykin–not a man with the greatest reputation, as Michael Weiss’s excellent recent profile demonstrates–either had to draw on younger investigators or, more likely, chose to. Younger means more malleable, more eager to please, after all. I also think that they are not exactly the intellectual elite; here I am definitely drawing an anecdotal evidence I’ve gathered (not least of investigators from other agencies trying to avoid getting transferred to the SK) but it does fit with both their uninspired performance in many high-profile cases as well as the high rate of disciplinary cases and the turnover. After all, I suspect he is looking for investigators who are pliable first (consider the way he brow-beat them into reopening the Kirovles case against Navalny), professional second.