President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: There are several things I want to discuss with you. First of all, there is the draft law that we discussed with our colleagues from the Prosecutor-General’s Office and the Investigative Committee on amendments to the Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes adding qualifying circumstances regarding criminal groups.
There is a lot of discussion now on how best to combat organised crime and criminal groups. We have laws dealing with this problem, in particular, specific criminal law provisions and liability under Article 210 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code. But, after discussing and working through my instructions, we decided to change our approach and draft new amendments modifying the way criminal groups are treated. In particular, the objective is to ensure that the people who stay behind the scenes but are the actual coordinators of criminal groups face full responsibility for their acts. I have just submitted this draft law to the State Duma for examination.
You and the other law enforcement agency heads should note that these amendments make substantial changes to the way criminal groups are qualified and considerably increase the penalties imposed. In particular, sentences for acts committed by people at the top of a criminal group’s hierarchy would increase to up to 20 years or life imprisonment. This is a very stiff penalty aimed at criminal groups’ coordinators. I think that it could be effective in helping us to combat this dangerous social evil, and I therefore ask you to give these draft laws your utmost attention.
There is another issue on which I want to say a couple of words, and then hear your comments. We have held a number of meetings lately on building up the Interior Ministry’s human resources. This subject has come up in connection to the terrorist attacks in which our colleagues have lost their lives, and with regard to a number of serious incidents within the Interior Ministry itself. I hope that you have issued all the necessary instructions and I would like to hear from you on the measures being taken in this area.
Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev: The proposed amendments to Articles 35, 210 and 100 of the Criminal Code are very important for us. Over these last years we have performed investigations into a large number of criminal groups, associations and organisations, and as a rule, it is only those who actually execute the crimes who get brought to justice, while the organisers remain in the shadows or face lighter penalties, including suspended sentences.
Dmitry Medvedev: They wriggle their way out of facing punishment, in other words.
Rashid Nurgaliyev: Yes. The new provisions that you mentioned will indeed be a help in bringing the organisers to justice. We have been hoping for such changes for some time now. Thank you that all of this has been agreed and that these amendments will get passed. Practice and our operations and investigations show that we really do need precisely this kind of approach to be effective in combating organised crime.
As for the second issue, you are entirely correct. After everything that has happened, especially after the incident involving Major Denis Yevsyukov [police officer who gunned down two people and injured another six at a Moscow supermarket on April 27, 2009], we drew some serious conclusions. Appeals were made to all divisions of the Interior Ministry, to the ministry’s senior officers, and we are now ensuring a much more responsible approach not just to appointments and transfers, but are also demanding personal responsibility for ensuring the moral and psychological health of our personnel. This, after all, is one of the direct responsibilities of the heads of our regional departments.
A number of senior officials have been removed from their posts of late, and I can say quite frankly that we will not stop here, but will examine every incident very thoroughly. Everything we do will be in accordance with the law and will be open and public.
Dmitry Medvedev: I hope that you will continue taking all the necessary measures to strengthen and develop the ministry’s human resources and obtain the results we need to see. We know how many complaints come in, in this regard, from the public. At the same time, the bulk of the Interior Ministry’s personnel are professionals, and we need to help them develop their potential, including by providing them with normal working conditions. This is also the responsibility of the ministry’s executives.
One final thing that I wanted to say is that, following the instruction I gave you, you made a number of proposals regarding the appointment of the new head of the Moscow City Chief Internal Affairs Department. I have examined your proposals and will make a decision today.