The Battle of the Big Beasts? Would an expanded MVD give the FSB a run for its money?

Time for bigger dogs?

Time for bigger dogs?

A report in RBK suggests that the Federal Anti-Drug Service (FSKN) and the Federal Migration Service (FMS) are to be rolled into the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). Meanwhile (and this is an idea which has been floated before) former Putin bodyguard and judo sparring partner Viktor Zolotov will become the new Minister of Internal Affairs. Current minister Kolokoltsev is, after all, too much of a professional and too little of a close Putin crony for such a crucial position, the thinking goes, despite his recent efforts to reinvent himself as a populist authoritarian of sorts.

The official logic would be to save money through efficiency savings. Maybe, though rarely does that actually happen when any government makes this claim. The FSKN has done, in my opinion, an at best mediocre job, not least as its determination to focus on interdiction and destruction of the supply-side (at which, incidentally, it has failed) has also derailed efforts to address the demand, and Russia is now the world’s largest per-capita heroin market. Its main preoccupation often seems rather empire-building (even wanting its own external intelligence role) and turf wars with other agencies. But whether rolled into the MVD or not (and this might at least address some of the jurisdictional issues which do arise between the FSKN and the police), there will still be an FSKN-like agency. With the FMS, the logic is even less apparent, although with the growing public disquiet about foreign migrants and workers, it is likely to become a more politically-significant (and thus fraught) body; the FMS may be in for a rough time ahead of it, but it will certainly be in the public eye.

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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.

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Financial crisis puts new pressure on Russian police, but means boom time for security forces

Although Putin made a great play of his commitment to law and order, the emphasis always seemed to be on order more than law. Resources were devoted more to defence and public order, but nonetheless the bonanza of oil and gas revenues did mean that spending on the police picked up, making good some of the deficits created in the 1990s, when successive budget crises left them in a disastrous state. At the same time, a trickle-down of prosperity did help control (if not really reverse) the rise in street crime, while organized crime matured, with real power in the underworld moving from ‘street mafiya’ to ‘suit mafiya’, the age of the overt gangsters known as ‘bandits’ giving way to the behind-the-scenes ‘authorities’ who blended crime, business and politics. This did not mean that organized crime disappeared, but at least it did mean an end to the more violent, indiscriminate days of the 1990s turf wars.

However, the global financial crisis is making its mark in Russia, too. (more…)

New guns for Russia’s cops – so what?

A piece of news which might seem of interest only to the gun-nut and the real obsessive actually has rather greater significance: the Russian police are phasing out their old Makarov pistols and Kalashnikov rifles with new weapons.

So what? (more…)

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