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President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Good evening, colleagues,
I have invited you to hear your suggestions on additional measures that can be taken to fight economic crimes – overall, and more specifically, crimes that are flourishing at major retail centres and markets. The steps being taken in this area are clearly insufficient. Either nothing happens at all, or progress is made at a rate that is unacceptably slow.
Meanwhile, the damage to the economy overall and to the state is enormous. When I say the state, I am referring first and foremost to people’s attitudes concerning actions taken by the authorities in this area. Unfortunately, there is still a fairly low level of trust toward the law enforcement agencies and other state authorities that should be resolving problems in this domain. The reasons are clear: we react and boost efforts in this area only when people inform us about it directly, telling us it is impossible to continue tolerating this level of lawlessness. Or, in this case, when a police officer has his head fractured. That is an extreme situation. This is what recently happened at one of the markets in Moscow: policemen were standing there and watching as their colleague got beaten up. Why? Are they such cowards? Perhaps, but it’s unlikely. Most likely, their inaction is earning them money from those merchants. This is obvious and well-known to everyone. The only party that doesn’t know about it is the Interior Ministry security service. It should be taking action in response. Where are the results of its efforts?
”The steps being taken to fight economic crimes are clearly insufficient. Either nothing happens at all, or progress is made at a rate that is unacceptably slow.“
Moreover, more vigorous measures must be taken by the Federal Migration Service and other agencies. Now I would like to hear your reports on what is being done about this situation, and then we will discuss the overall problem in more detail.
Please, Mr Kolokoltsev, you have the floor.
Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev: Mr President, colleagues,
We have drawn some very tough conclusions from the incident that occurred. The local police chief has been dismissed, as were several staff members. We fully intend to continue these efforts. The measures we have taken since the incident will become a permanent part of our work. This is not some kind of a quick mop-up of the territory that is over in a couple of days, as some people are calling it. These measures will be carried out on different levels, and practically speaking, they must be shown to be effective. However, their effectiveness must be assessed by the citizens themselves, the city’s residents. They must give us a fundamental decision: are we capable of bringing order to such places, these markets, or are we incapable of fulfilling your instructions? Either way, we will continue this work.
Vladimir Putin: Very well. Go ahead, please.
First Deputy chairman of the Investigative Committee Vasily Piskarev: Mr President, the Investigative Committee has also analysed the situation carefully – this anomalous situation pertaining to the protection of police officers from the lawlessness we all saw. We have initiated two criminal cases against the police officers who observed the situation but did not intervene and did not help to apprehend the offenders, which resulted in a policeman sustaining serious injuries.
We want to conduct a thorough investigation, and in addition to checking for negligence, we want to also investigate the presence of corruption between merchants and law enforcement agencies. It seems to me that this type of work should be conducted not just at the Matveyevsky Market, where the incident occurred, but also at other major markets, to uncover collusion between merchants and law enforcement agencies, as well as oversight authorities. We are prepared to conduct this work together with the Federal Security Service and internal affairs agencies.
Federal Migration Service Director Konstantin Romodanovsky: Mr President, we have drafted and adopted laws in accordance with your instructions to increase liability for immigrants, up to the level of criminal liability. Soon, in the month of August, several new regulations will come into force, allowing us to reverse the situation to a certain extent.
”All government agencies that must make corresponding decisions and execute them are working sluggishly and ineffectively. One of the key problems is the coalescence of government agencies with trade and merchants.“
In the past, an individual who overstayed his or her visa was fined but allowed to remain in Russia. The new laws will give us the right to invariably impose a fine and deport the individual. Moreover, on Mr Sobyanin’s initiative, Moscow, St Petersburg, the Leningrad Region and the Moscow Region have increased penalties for the violation of migration regulations by legal entities and officials. This rule will come into force on August 9.
In fact, the measures we have launched are leading to certain results that should compel our visitors to comply with our rules. In particular, we have prevented the entry of 145,000 foreign nationals into Russia since the beginning of February. That number should be even higher, but we are preventing a thousand people from entering every day; this work is carried out on an individual basis. And I believe that denying admission to foreign nationals violating regulations onto our territory is the most effective measure that will allow us to restore order quickly.
Vladimir Putin: The Acting Mayor of Moscow has already pointed to these problems many times. I know that at this time, the Moscow City Hall itself is making vigorous attempts to change the situation. Mr Sobyanin, you have the floor.
Acting Mayor of Moscow Sergei Sobyanin: Mr President, you have stated very accurately that Moscow’s markets are the zones with the city’s highest level of criminal activity. With your support and assistance, we have shut down such odious markets as Luzhniki, Slavyansky Mir and Mitino. Just two weeks ago, we closed down the Timiryazevsky Market, and that closure was supported by a police regiment because there was active resistance in spite of the court decision. Overall, we have closed down 30 markets in Moscow over the last two years. Today, for the most part, only food markets remain, but there are more than enough problems even there: they include tax evasion, the use of cash transactions, violations of migration and customs laws, sales of fake goods and so on.
Incidentally, I want to say a few words about the Cherkizovsky Market; you gave harsh instructions regarding that market four years ago, and it was shut down. However, we received information that the activities there were still continuing. Today, at six in the morning, we carried out an operation, and indeed, this was confirmed. Counterfeit products were being produced on three underground floors; we arrested 1,200 individuals from Vietnam and other countries. In other words, this business was flourishing. Today, all this was removed from there.
Mr President, I have a suggestion concerning the Cherkizovsky Market: it is an enormous but essentially abandoned space with excellent transport accessibility – four metro stations, two of which are right near the site. You have given instructions on finding space to create museum archives with exhibition halls, in order to establish an open museum depository. Moreover, we have been seeking space for a large CSKA athletic hockey centre. Indeed, it’s almost as if this space was designed for it; we can build a cultural and athletic centre there. If you issue the corresponding instructions, we will work the idea through together with the Federal Agency for State Property Management, the Sports Ministry and the Culture Ministry. Unfortunately, because this is federal land, we cannot manage it ourselves, but I am sure our colleagues will help us if you provide the relevant instructions.
”The merchant's ethnic and religious background do not have any significance. What’s important is the money being paid off to members of government agencies. And this is what we need to address.“
Vladimir Putin: This is an excellent suggestion. Indeed, it’s right in the centre of the city and has very good public transport accessibility. It would be very convenient for Moscow’s residents – both the athletic facilities and the archives, which should certainly be created not just as archives but as exhibition spaces as well. Let’s develop this idea; I will certainly issue corresponding instructions to the Government.
As for the overall situation, I would like to say this: the issue undoubtedly requires a multifaceted approach. However, all government agencies that must make corresponding decisions and execute them are working sluggishly and ineffectively. I will not list them all now, but this pertains to many government agencies and directorates. One of the key problems is the coalescence of government agencies with trade and merchants. This is not directly related to the merchants’ ethnic background, although as far as ethnic criminal groups are concerned, we know that this problem also exists; but in this case, ethnicity and religion do not have any significance. What’s important is the money being paid off to members of government agencies. And this is what we need to address.
I have already said that the Interior Ministry’s territorial internal security subdivisions do not demonstrate efficient operation, so this should certainly be conveyed to the Main Internal Security Directorate. They must work closely on it, together with other law enforcement agencies and special services, and we need to get results. Of course, this should apply not just to Interior Ministry employees, but the Federal Migration Service and all others, including local authorities. I have already spoken to the Prosecutor General and I am asking the Investigative Committee to work with the heads of other special services to ensure that all of you are actively engaged in this work.