Vladimir Putin: Friends and colleagues,
First of all, I would like to congratulate you on the holiday, Police Officer’s Day, and to wish you all the best, good health, successful service and personal happiness.
I have looked at the recent materials connected with the activities of the Ministry and am pleased to note that nearly 50% of the uniformed and civilian staff of the Interior Ministry are people under 30. I think it is a very good sign which shows that young people are willing to enter the civil service in general and are not afraid to join the services that are very taxing and involve risks.
Your service is directly connected with risks and great emotional and physical stress. Emotional, because a law enforcer’s work has to do with ensuring security and providing services to the people, the citizens of Russia.
There is not a more complex job in the world than working with people. It is always the most complicated and the most responsible work. That is why a system of training and retraining of personnel is well developed within the Interior Ministry, as I think most of you know. I think that is the number one task for young personnel.
Measures to reform the Interior Ministry were initiated about two years ago. They are all connected with the reform of the Armed Forces. The military arm of the state must be effective and must match the present level of societal development, and it must ensure further development.
The prospects of our development are connected with the strengthening of democracy and the development of a market economy. And that is why I would like to draw your attention in particular to the need to identify the most important aspect of your day-to-day professional activities.
The most important thing is that the state as a whole and the individual ministries and agencies, and even more so the members of such services, ministries and agencies such as yours have one overriding task: to ensure the interests of Russian citizens, their personal safety, their privacy and protect their property. The specialists, especially those working in the economic sphere, must be thoroughly familiar with economic tactics and the strategy of the Government, and must be aware that protecting property and protecting the interests of citizens in this sphere is our main task today.
This is not to say that anyone can be allowed to break the laws. Everyone – the businessmen who attended the gala meeting today, the civil servants, the police and armed forces officers – must be equal before the law. That is our main goal.
You know that recently major efforts have been exerted, including by the Interior Ministry, to put the Ministry in order. I would not like it to be a one-time campaign. This work must continue permanently.
In particular, I would like to stress that the activities of cleansing its own ranks, far from casting a shadow on the Ministry as a whole, on the contrary, are the most important sign of democracy in our country and the viability not only of the Interior Ministry, but of the whole state and its law enforcement system. Only a strong and confident nation can openly challenge such phenomena within its own ranks. That is the main guarantee of our common success.
Of course, urging people to achieve results is not so difficult. It is far more difficult to achieve these results, and that is why the Government should think about the staff of the Interior Ministry. I think there is much that the state owes them. We will do it as the country’s economic potential grows.
We raised your salaries last year, and we raised the pay for military rank as of January 1, and made another 11% rise in October. We will continue to move steadily along that path and the material aspect, the financial status of the Interior Ministry personnel will be constantly within our sight.
You know that a decision has been taken with regard to precinct police officers, the people who directly work with people in the precincts. They have a very important and complicated job. I think it has been neglected. Certain preferences have been granted. These are not large preferences, but they involve a slight rise of salaries and the possibility of awarding military ranks one step higher than their duties normally require. I think that is reasonable.
That is all I wanted to say for starters. I look forward to hearing from you. And once again, I congratulate you on your holiday.
Let us hear from the Minister of Internal Affairs.
Boris Gryzlov: Thank you. As you said, gathered here today are young members of the personnel and servicemen of the interior forces. Many of those present hold orders and medals. They are worthy members of the Interior Ministry personnel. As you have said, about 50% of the Interior Ministry personnel are young people under the age of 30. We would like to put our stake on young people, but to do so we must provide them with a secure future and a secure job. The current reform of the Interior Ministry makes our system more clear-cut and transparent and, we can already say, more effective. The results are there for everyone to see: competition to gain admission to our higher education institutions is getting tougher every year. This year, on average, there were only enough places for a third of all the applicants. As a result we are able to select those who are best equipped to work for the Interior Ministry. A policeman’s work is all about working with people and for the people. The latter is even more important, and we have recently been trying to restore people’s trust in the Interior Ministry system which obviously is in short supply at the moment.
Public organisations have been set up to help us. They include the Voluntary People’s Law and Order Squads. They were active ten years ago, but then the movement died out. Now once again they are helping us and that means that they trust us.
Then there are the Cossacks squads. Since we have established such links with the public, it means we are on the right track. And the role of young people is very important for us.
During the course of my duty, I have visited many regions and met the representatives of various divisions of the Interior Ministry. Present in this hall are detectives and those who man the patrols and serve in the interior forces. It is very important for them to have a sense of duty to their country.
Today we took a very difficult decision to disclose instances of corruption within the Interior Ministry to the entire nation. It was a needed decision because fighting that phenomenon is very important to us. Often young members of our personnel took part in that fight.
With your permission, I would like to give the floor to our workers because they have problems and wishes and probably also questions that must be answered if our work is to become more effective.
Vladimir Putin: You are welcome.
O.Kislitsyn (Senior Lieutenant, Economic Crime Directorate of the Interior Ministry of the Republic of Komi): I would like to ask the following question. A new Criminal Procedure Code was recently adopted. Under the new code it is easy to refuse to give initial explanations, but that makes investigations meaningless. The Criminal Procedural Code must be amended.
Vladimir Putin: Do I understand that people are not obliged to provide materials at the request of a policeman? In other words, is it mandatory as part of criminal proceedings, but not before such proceedings have been opened?
It is a practical and very substantive remark. I will instruct the Presidential Executive Office and the Government to look into this matter.
A.Timashova (3rd year student at the Krasnodar Academy, Russian Interior Ministry): I would like to continue that topic. The effectiveness of our work depends directly on legislation. I think that the laws in a democratic state must be totalitarian. It may seem to be a combination of absolute incompatibles, but that idea would yield some positive results if it is implemented. For society to be democratic, the laws must be observed by all the citizens. I think it would be effective if a corresponding punishment is introduced. That is, the law must be tough and everyone must be equal before the law. These two theses, I think, are the most important for democratic society: the totalitarian nature of the laws and inevitability of punishment for all those who break the law.
Vladimir Putin: I think your teachers in the field of the theory of the state and law could do with some instruction. After all, the term “totalitarianism” has a specific meaning. I wouldn’t like to go into detail, but I might take issue with you on that. The laws must be tough, but absolutely fair. And of course everyone must obey these laws; all people must be equal before them. But in a democratic country the laws must be democratic. I repeat, they must match the level of state and economic development. They must be balanced and of course strict. There is no doubt about it. But it is debatable that laws in a democratic country must be totalitarian. They must be tough, but fair. The main thing is for the law enforcement officers to secure compliance with the law. Only then can the state be effective. I absolutely agree with you there.
V.KVASHNIN (Lieutenant, economic crimes officer, Interior Affairs Department at the Nizhny Novgorod port). I would like to follow up on the question asked by my colleague regarding the provision of initial information, but I would like amendments to be made to the Administrative Code, not the Criminal Procedure Code. From my experience, and that mainly applies to commercial organisations, they often fail to provide replies to our queries. Is it possible to introduce some kind of sanctions in such situations under the Administrative Code?
Vladimir Putin: I have already addressed that issue. We have to think about it. I do not have a ready recipe as to what should be done in that case, but I have no doubt that something has to be done about it. It applies both to the criminal and administrative process.
If organisations and citizens are not obliged to answer the queries from law enforcement bodies, what is there to discuss? It makes meaningful work impossible, it reduces it to useless paperwork. A balanced approach is needed: there should be no tyranny on the part of the law enforcement bodies with regard to organisations and citizens, but the latter must react in one way or another.
V.Kvashnin: The queries must be controlled and they must be motivated.
Vladimir Putin: Yes, of course.
A.Viskov (Captain, senior officer for very important cases of the special police unit, Interior Affairs Directorate, Nizhny Novgorod Region): I would like to touch upon the topic of corruption. Experts claim that official bodies of power are merging with criminal groups in Russia. Do you think that is really happening?
Vladimir Putin: In recent years we have been talking a great deal about corruption. It may be of consolation to you that there is no country in the world without corruption. But no country stands a chance of overcoming corruption and developing effectively unless it admits the fact and openly challenges corruption. Corruption is a merger of government structures with the criminal world. That process has its distinguishing features in our country. I am referring to the process of privatisation which has been taking place and will continue to take place in our country.
One should on no account put into question the positive aspects of the development of Russian business. All those who promote market relations in our country are entitled to direct support on the part of the state. This is the meaning of our economic policy, but we must prevent the people who do it from gaining unfair advantages over others by penetrating government bodies.
The state must watch it and react with all available means. As you may have noticed, and I have already spoken about it, in the last year and a half or two years, we have made it a constant concern of the Government, regional administrations, courts of law, the police and the army. In the army too there have been some high-profile cases that led to the arrests of high-ranking officers. Some of those punished dealt with finances. The level of corruption is telltale and we have still a lot to do to get rid of that phenomenon or at least to reduce its scale.
M.Gerashchenko (Lieutenant, precinct police officer, Korenovsky District, Interior Affairs Directorate, Krasnodar Region): How will migration policy develop in Russia and how will the situation with migrants in southern Russia be handled?
Vladimir Putin: I have talked a lot with the heads of various regions in southern Russia. These are regions with a nice climate, which is one of several factors that attracts migrants from other countries, especially from the CIS countries.
A great calamity befell on our country. A single state disintegrated. Overnight 25 million people who consider themselves Russian found themselves outside Russia’s borders. Just imagine, 25 million people. It had never occurred to them that they would become foreigners, and their whole lives changed overnight. Of course it would be immoral and absolutely wrong to pretend that we have nothing to do with it. So we must regulate our relations with these people. Number one.
Number two. In terms of demographic processes, Russia is not much different from European countries. It is not only that our living standards are better or worse in some places than in the neighbouring countries or in the so-called “far abroad” countries. It is a universal European trend, a trend that is characteristic of post-industrial development.
I am not going to discuss the root causes now. Even experts are not absolutely sure what the ultimate causes are, but the fact remains that the demographic situation in our country is difficult. Most of the countries when they find themselves in such a situation solve their demographic problems by allowing immigrants into the country. True, they do it under a meaningful government programme. Canada provides a good example. They have government ministries that select immigrants for their country. Every embassy is given a yearly target: how many immigrants to attract to the country, but not any kind of immigrants, only those the country needs. They select immigrants on the basis of age, profession, education, health status and they direct them to the regions where such people are needed.
Ideally, we should organise our work in the same way, but with due account to the features that I mentioned earlier. So, it is a complicated issue. We should be careful to make sure that the inflow of immigrants does not worsen crime or put an extra burden on the economy, but that it helps economic development.
You know that fairly tough laws have been adopted in this sphere. After introducing these laws and watching them in action and as a result of feedback from the regions, we have introduced some amendments to make it easier for our former countrymen and the people who permanently live in Russia but cannot obtain Russian citizenship to come to Russia and obtain residence permits. We shall see how the amendments we have introduced will work. I am sure you are familiar with them because they directly affect your work. We will look into it and analyse everything and discuss it with the State Duma deputies and with the regions. And if we see that further amendments are needed, we will introduce them.
A.Marchenko (Lieutenant, Criminal Detection Department operative, Blagoveshchensk, Interior Affairs Directorate, Amur Region): Under the new Criminal Procedure Code the position of suspects released after detention has changed.
Vladimir Putin: Are you concerned about the problems of the duration of detention and the judicial form?
A.Marchenko: It has become difficult to detain a person. Formerly it was done through the Prosecutor’s Office. Now you have to go to a court of law. It requires extra time and I am not speaking about the quality…
Vladimir Putin: Comrade Senior Lieutenant, let me tell you this. I had no doubt that you would face these difficulties, but I consciously made the decision to ensure the constitutional rights of Russian citizens. I very much hope that your professionalism, your training and your commitment will eventually enable you to sort out all the technicalities. I had no doubt that certain problems might arise at the first stage, but that is the only way to ensure the rights of Russian citizens. No democratic country in the world allows extra-judiciary detentions. Of course, it creates some technical problems, but they should not arise if the work is well organised. It calls for a higher level of training and effort on the part of the law enforcement bodies. I am aware of that, but it would be a mistake to solve the problem at the expense of the citizen. I do not doubt for a moment that no serious problems will arise nationwide. There are problems in some places connected with the staffing of the law courts. We should simply have more judges because they must now handle a larger amount of work.
I have never been a policeman myself, but my work has been closely related to it. You guess why, don’t you? So we should not follow the principle of universal tightening of screws. Before detaining a person we have to think and prepare ourselves, and then act. Because depriving a person of freedom is an extreme measure. If we feel that it is necessary we must, first, be sure that there is no other way, and, second, we must thoroughly prepare ourselves for it. I understand that this is easier said than done, but then nobody promised that your service would be easy.