Lt. Gen. Yakunin on policing Moscow

Yakunin copLt. General Anatoly Yakunin (yes, the other Yakunin], Moscow city police chief, gave an interesting interview to the government newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta, which was published on 24 August 2015, and I think it is worth reproducing some passages from it. Notes and subhead in red are mine, other text my translations from the original [italics are questions in the interview].

Making cuts?

[Following the government’s requirement that the Ministry of Internal Affairs cut its total payroll by 10%]

AY: Of course, every leader wants to have more staff – it means less load. I want to say that this reduction has been well thought out in the ministry. In particular, we were instructed not to reduce front-line staff. We have already cut nearly 7,000 positions – the required 10%. We had almost 70,000 certified staff, and there are now about 62,000.

I must say that security in the city is not affected. Firstly, we have not cut a single precinct officer, a single patrol police officer.  We cut 46 investigators [lit: opers] from the whole contingent [lit: garrison] and the central staff where there is a shortage. …

… we did not touch all of the services that are engaged at the district level directly in fighting crime and protecting the population. We have made cuts in the logistics and personnel services, and at the level of central staff.

[He adds that most of the “cuts” just mean closing or freezing unfilled vacancies, as they were already 4,000 below their establishment strength.]

Basically, we have cut the Extradepartmental Guard [the police’s private security arm] … by about 6 thousand. And they had a shortage of only 800 officer. But we are now offering them other vacant positions, as we [still] have some 2,500 vacant positions in the city. … Plus we still have nearly 1,500 employees, who are at retirement age…

Hiring ex-Ukrainian policemen?

AY: We have taken on something like a hundred from “Berkut” [the infamous Ukrainian riot police] to our Center for Special Purposes, as OMON [riot police].They are working well. They are honest guys, all well trained.

Interesting: do they retain their own symbols, badges?

AY: No, they are wear our uniform and badges, and they are happy. We have solved the [housing] problem, again through the Moscow government, the allocation of grants to them of 15,000 rubles for rent. … Teams have accepted them as if they had always served in our Center for Special Purposes.

Do you have helicopters?

AY: We have three helicopters – that is enough. In the future, we are preparing for the World Cup in 2018.  Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, in response to our repeated petitions and with the support of the Interior Ministry leadership, has decided to implement an initiative on the construction of an additional building at Petrovka, 38 [HQ of the Moscow police]. The plan is to build a helipad on top. Once we have drawn up the terms of reference, we will hold a competition and prepare the project. Construction will start next year.

[Yakunin is asked about the Tourist Police who patrol some key central areas. He says they get an extra 20,000 rubles a month, covered by Moscow City Council, and there are now more than a hundred, English-speaking, patrolling 13 pedestrian areas in the centre.]

Security outside the centre?

AY: I do not deny that security in some of the residential districts is much less than in the Central District. But we are gradually going to the outskirts. We are increasing the number of cameras, we are carrying out raids. We are working in all of the former industrial areas, including in the area “Gardener” market area [Sadovod market in SE Moscow, a notorious den of crime, counterfeit and illegal migrant labour], where there is also a problem. …

A return to more street patrols?

AY: I know that the residents of Moscow constantly go back in time and ask whether we can restore foot patrols. They are familiar, of course. When I was a kid and came to Moscow, I saw foot patrols here. They were all wearing white gloves, smart, handsome, stern. … Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to bring back foot patrols…

What about crime committed by foreigners?

AY: According to our statistics, of the foreigners who have committed crimes, 98% came from the former Soviet republics. And only 2% are visitors from the far abroad [a term still used to contrast with the “near abroad” of the ex-USSR].

But in general, is the share of foreign visitors in crime increasing or decreasing? At one time, it was said that almost 60% of Moscow’s crime was committed by visitors. What is changing?

AY: Almost nothing changes, 50% is nonresident crime. What is important, is that this crime is not only because of our former republics, but also from Russian regions.

So-called “on tour”?

AY: Yes. So that you get the whole picture, the alignment is as follows: 50% of crimes are committed Muscovites and 50% by nonresident citizens, including foreigners. The “real” foreigners commit more than 20% of the 50% of crimes [so presumably that means “more than 10% of the total.”]. It is mainly immigrants from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. This year, we have eliminated 15 criminal groups, 12 bands plus a large number of organized criminal groups. [The technical distinction between these is pretty arcane.]

… [The so-called ethnic criminals] live very often in the Moscow region, and are plan their crimes in Moscow – here, in their view, is the big money…

As gangsters from 1990s released, can expect new gang wars?

[The term used is a return to the likhy – literally “dashing” but colloquially “nasty” or “tough” – life.]

AY: … We will not allow a return to the previous state of affairs. This is not the time. Now, we have powerful intelligence services, the police is not the same, nor is the state. Therefore, a return to the old dashing life will not be permitted.

Moscow’s criminal world

AY: Here in Moscow there are, so to speak, “registered” about 40 “thieves in law.” Of these, ten are in detention, ten outside Moscow.

At the moment, organized criminal groups of citizens of Tajikistan are very bold, they are carrying out highway robbery. And specialization are being maintained. Georgian organized crime groups were and still are involved in apartment burglaries. There are other crimes, but most of their specialization is burglary. By the way, the percentage of thefts solved has increased, but it is still low: only 21%.

The “Safe City” program

AY: We now have 128,000 cameras. They are different, monitoring entranceways, yards, streets, the metro, and so on. We have uncovered many crimes.

Why not use the Soviet experience or local informants?

Why do not we use the good Soviet experience and do not reach out to the population? In every apartment building there are very active citizens – former retirees, pensioners who are willing and able to help the police.  A grandma on the bench. Why not create a small neighborhood activist cell [lit: aktiv]? For example, the district inspector would come to them, they would go out on patrol, like auxiliaries [lit: druzhinniki]. I think many would agree.

AY: I agree… Unlike many regions, we have preserved the Soviet system. Public order enforcement points [OPOP: Obshchestvennyi punkt okhrany pravoporyadka] are very effectively run. There is a chairman of the OPOP, who as a rule is a former law-enforcement officer…

Kolokoltsev’s Populist Lurch

Apparently these guys will save Russia from nasty "American-style democracy". Bless 'em

Apparently these guys will save Russia from nasty “American-style democracy”. Bless ’em

It’s sad to see a professional making like a populist, but presumably in a bid to fight back against the whispering campaign against him, and the efforts by hardliners to see First Deputy Interior Minister Zolotov fast-tracked into his position, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev has leapt on board the xenophobia bandwagon. Interviewed in RBK, he talked up the MVD’s successes in 2014, which was only to be expected, and then talked up the Interior Troops as a bulwark against efforts to implant evil foreign democracy, which was not. In his words,

“We see the tragic consequences that bedevil the country in which the experiment is conducted to graft on ‘American-style democracy’.. We see the collapse of their economies, a terrible social situation, the actual destruction of the state.”

Do I hear “Ukraine”? Of course no mention of the extent to which those terrible outcomes reflect not democratisation (and if “American-style democracy” is so bad, what about British- or German-) but the consequent active and armed destabilisation of said state by a malign and aggrieved next-door neighbour. In any case, as far as Kolokoltsev is concerned, “this will never, in any scenario, happen in the Russian Federation.” Why is that? Well, his main answer seems to be not because the Russian people wouldn’t stand for it, but because the Interior Troops are ready for rapid deployment to deal with any situation. Lovely: no democratisation here, because we have men with guns and sticks to make sure that doesn’t happen.

I honestly have no idea whether or not Kolokoltsev has always held these beliefs. He has essentially stayed away from wider political discussions, in keeping with his reputation as a serious and committed career policeman. I have never assumed he was some kind of closet liberal (let’s face it: very few senior cops anywhere are), but he has shown that he understands the need to reconstitute the social contract between police and the policed and has done nothing to prioritise political policing over law enforcement (that tends to fall to the FSB and Investigations Committee). These latest pronouncements are thus unusual and can only be understood as attempts to shore up his political flank and pitch himself as being a tough political enforcer. We’ll see not only if it works but whether it becomes more than just rhetoric, in which case the police reform programme is likely to become increasingly threadbare.

Is Kolokoltsev in or out? Either way, the rumours surrounding the Russian interior minister’s fate signify something

Is there a Sword of Damocles hanging over Kolokoltsev?

Is there a Sword of Damocles hanging over Kolokoltsev?

As I write this, rumours abound that Russian Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev has resigned, is going to resign or is going to “be resigned.” I have no idea which, if any, are true, although it is striking that not only did the rumours, first aired on Dozhd (the last independent TV station, clinging on by its fingertips) get their real boost when Presidential press-spokesman and all-round Mouth of Sauron Dmitry Peskov publicly acknowledged them when he said that he did not know about them. Besides which, Peskov failed to follow up with any tribute to Kolokoltsev, any statement that of course he had the president’s unstinting support. When added to the possibly-but-hardly-probably coincidental claim that Kolokoltsev plagiarised his graduate thesis (hardly unusual in Russia–much the same has been said about Putin–but still another wound), the implication is that either the Kremlin is preparing the ground for his removal or else that he has powerful enemies trying to claw him down. It is also striking that his rumoured replacement is a close Putin client and a man associated with security rather than law enforcement.


Security Forces in and close to Kiev: a preliminary tally


SBU special forces, armed and ready

I honestly have no idea what will happen in Kiev, whether the regime will fracture and crumble, whether the protests will subside, whether martial law has been declared: I am not a Ukrainian politics specialist and in any case, this is one of those situations in which I feel all bets are off and the only real question is who is the most plausible and lucky guessers amongst the assembled ranks of pundits. However, in a depressive moment, togo with my previous note on Berkut, I thought I’d quickly throw together a list of — to my knowledge, at least — the security forces available either in Kiev or close by. Of course, treat this with some caution, not least as it would be easy for the government quickly to bring in reinforcements from other police, Interior Troop and army commands. Still, I hope this list remains of no more than academic interest.

MVS Police

Central MVS assets

‘Sokil’ (Falcon) police commando unit

Kiev City Berkut Regiment – c. 450

Kiev City Berkut Regiment – c. 450

Kiev Region Berkut Regiment – c. 350?

Kiev City Police (especially its Public Order Directorate) – total force c. 11,000 cops

Cadets from the Kiev MVS Police Academy

MVS Interior Troops (VV)

Unit 3027 Bars (‘Snow Leopard’) MVS VV Special Purpose Brigade

Omega counter-terrorist company

22nd MVS VV Special Purpose Brigade

25th MVS VV Special Motorized Police Brigade

3rd MVS VV Brigade

Cadets from the MVS VV Academy

State Guard Directorate (UDO)

Some 2900 armed officers, mainly in Kiev

Titan special security unit

Security Service of Ukraine (SBU)

Security Directorate

Alfa counter-terrorist unit


72nd Guards Mechanized Brigade: some 3,000 troops at Bila Tserkva, 80 km south of Kiev

Силы безопасности в и близко в Киев: предварительной оценки

Berkut: Yanukovich’s stormtroopers?


Berkut at Work

As the terrible events in Kiev unfold, I’m getting increasing media queries about Berkut (‘Golden Eagle’), the Ukrainian riot police busily out on their skull-cracking work, so I thought it might be useful to post a quick summary here. In short, they are the descendants of the Soviet OMON and thus very similar to their Russian OMON counterparts (the acronym now stands for Special Purpose Mobile Units, even since the militsiya was renamed politsiya and no one much liked OPON as a new name). They even wear the same blue urban camouflage or black uniforms (although just to show that they are their own men, they wear maroon berets instead of their Russians’ black ones). In other words, Berkut (click here for a gung-ho recruitment video) fulfills a range of roles, from armed support to the regular police (such as in raids on gang headquarters), through additional patrollers on the streets. However, their prime and backstop role, as here, is in public order duties. Members either apply directly or are recruited from regular police and disproportionately served in the paratroopers or Naval Infantry (marines). Whatever one may feel about what they do, in fairness they are pretty good at it: they know how to pick the right kinds of recruits, train them well and keep them at a good level of physical and moral conditioning. As I say, this is a technical observation about their skills, not a moral judgement…


Is the MVD getting into the macroeconomics game, or hinting at criticism of the Kremlin?

My eye was caught by a RIA Novosti news item today. For the sake of completeness, here’s the original and a hasty and rough translation:

МВД ожидает стабилизации общественно-политической ситуации в России


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