President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Good afternoon, colleagues,
I would like to begin today’s meeting with a few words about the events that took place yesterday. You know that an explosion took place in North Ossetia and that the main version put forward so far is that this was a terrorist act. We express our condolences over what has happened of course, but we also need to discuss what steps to take now. This act is clear evidence that the terrorist threat is still present in our country and we cannot afford to let down our guard. We have succeeded in suppressing active terrorism in the country, but the environment that can give rise to these kinds of crimes still remains. The conclusion therefore is that everyone, the federal and regional agencies, the regional authorities, all have to work as hard as possible.
We must move swiftly to work out exactly what happened, and I therefore instruct our colleagues present here – the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, the Prosecutor General’s Office and its Investigations Committee, and all the law enforcement agencies, the Federal Security Service and the Interior Ministry, to work out what happened, investigate all the circumstances of this crime and report to me personally as rapidly as possible.
Now, to turn to the issues that we have gathered to examine today.
We will look at steps to improve law enforcement work. By this I mean making it more effective at every stage.
Preliminary results for this year show that some types of crime are on the decline. Judging by the statistics available, there has been a drop in the number of serious and very serious crimes. But this is not reason to grow complacent. You are aware that statistics do not always reflect the full situation with crimes. Furthermore, in a number of areas there are still very obvious problems and this is something we are all well aware of.
Of particular cause for concern is the increase in the number of criminal cases that are the subject of lengthy investigations that do not respect the time limits for preliminary investigations. This violates the rights of the accused, who end up being held in custody throughout this long time period in pre-trial detention centres. You know what kind of situation this creates – the prisons are overcrowded. This is no secret. This creates big problems for getting these people ready to return to society. In these cases, the detention conditions do not meet even minimal standards, not to mention that they do not comply with the requirements set out by law. Furthermore, the consequences are also obvious – this creates a situation where thousands of people find themselves forced into the prison sub-culture.
These are the sorts of consequences we find ourselves having to deal with, and so I remind you of the importance of respecting the law when making decisions to keep people in detention. This is a special measure and it should be applied in compliance with all of the laws and only concerning people who present a genuine danger for society. <…>
The next issue we could discuss here, because the situation is rather complex, is the consequences of the global financial crisis. You know that the state is putting large amounts of money into supporting the Russian economy and financial system. We have transferred more than 1 trillion roubles already just for strengthening the banking system. And our support will not end here. Why do I say this? Because, of course, this support is earmarked above all for the real sector: the defence industry, machine-building, agriculture, and in some cases big companies involved in the retail trade. Most important of all is that these funds be spent strictly for their designated purpose. The state agencies, including the law enforcement agencies, are responsible for overseeing all of these operations.
In this context, we need to step up the work of the Inter-Ministerial Group for Prevention of Economic Crimes. The group includes representatives of the FSB, Interior Ministry, Tax Service, the Russian Financial Monitoring Service, and the Central Bank. Everyone needs to cooperate now and get the mechanisms running for coordination of work in this area. This is all the more important as there are people out there trying to take advantage of the situation created by the crisis. There have been cases of information attacks against banks, for example. I don’t know if there have been such cases in St Petersburg, but I do know that in Siberia and the Far East there have been cases of information coming out that such and such a bank is ‘going under’ and that it is in a shaky situation, so people start withdrawing their money of course, after all, it is only natural that they should react. But these are completely groundless rumours, and this kind of information is clearing the way either for raider attacks or is simply an attempt to lay low a competitor. This kind of information needs to be checked, and if there are signs of criminal action, those responsible need to be brought to account immediately so that others will not be tempted to try to profit from the crisis.
Another issue is that checks and inspections are all very well, but they must be reasonable in number. I have spoken about this before. Unjustified checks and inspections by the law enforcement and inspection agencies, and even more so unjustified laying of criminal charges are unacceptable. Obviously, if cases of this kind come to light, the heads of the law enforcement agencies should take appropriate measures. <…>
Another task I spoke about in the Address [to the Federal Assembly] and that is extremely relevant today is combating corruption. The objectives have been set and the legal mechanisms defined. The State Duma has begun examining the presidential package of laws. Once these laws have been adopted they must be implemented unconditionally by all the state bodies, including the law enforcement agencies. <…>
The final issue I want to draw to your attention today is that of information work. You know that we have problems in this area. Moreover, I think that many of the negative habits that took root in our country long before the modern period began are linked precisely to the lack of respect for the law and the lack of comprehensive information on the consequences of breaking this or that law. This area of work is therefore also very important for everyone working in the law enforcement agencies. <…>
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We realise that the consequences of the world financial crisis, as I have said, will be felt for a long time still to come. Their direct impact can be seen in a slowdown in economic growth, inflation, and a host of other problems that everyone in the country will face.
But there is also an indirect effect I wanted to draw to your attention. In this kind of situation there are always those who get tempted to carve up the markets and assets once again, or simply settle scores in this or that area of business or on the fringes of the criminal world. This is a situation we must be prepared for as best we can.
We have built up a stable state and we do not need a return to the 1990s when everything was boiling and bubbling away. The law enforcement, investigations and watchdog agencies must therefore monitor this as thoroughly as possible and intervene if there are attempts to manipulate the situation caused by the crisis, take the necessary counter-measures, launch criminal cases, or else we will not have order. <…>
We realize that these financial difficulties can lead to a number of problems and give rise to unemployment too. These are all factors that we need to keep under our control.
I am not talking about the social consequences – it is the Government’s job to deal with them. This is something we will do. I am talking about the law enforcement aspect, that is, what you are involved in. Monitoring must be thorough, all the more so as the situation is not good overall, even at the ordinary everyday level. I just looked through the documents presented by the Interior Ministry. We all know the figures, but when you start to look through them more closely they really do shock. There were 7,500 murders (Article 105) arising out of ordinary everyday circumstances last year, and 14,500 cases of grievous bodily harm. These are huge figures. I think that we have very difficult conditions in this respect, and at the same time, we simply must make our utmost effort to bring down the number of crimes of this kind. This is a complicated social task and it is all the more difficult at a time when there are problems in the job market and the financial sector.