President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Colleagues, I planned to discuss with you today the situation with the draft law On the Police Force, which has gone through its first reading. But other matters related to law and order in the country have come up that also require our attention, and this is why we are all here in Ryazan today. I visited some facilities of the Interior Ministry here, including the university and the regional Interior Ministry department. It all makes quite a good impression.
Coming back to the draft law, it will be enacted on March 1, 2011. I hope that the Interior Ministry personnel are all familiar with its provisions and ready to enforce them. The draft contains quite a few new things, it is a large document and requires proper preparation, even among the Interior Ministry personnel. The law has to start working as soon as it is enacted and its provisions must be implemented and not remain on paper alone. The cornerstone of this law, as we discussed, is professionalism – the professionalism of the Interior Ministry officers and their honest and effective performance of their duties. This was the law’s main purpose right from the start. We need our police force to be transparent and responsible before society. The law’s new draft guarantees the rights of all citizens in their relations with the police and other law enforcement agencies.
A stricter selection criteria should be set. In the draft law there is a special provision requiring police officers to regularly go through a certification process. I looked just now at the hiring control system employed here at the regional police department, and it looks an impressive and modern system. Of course, it does not provide complete guarantees because people are capable of outwitting any system, but it nonetheless provides a modern approach that can produce good results.
Essentially, we need to form a new generation of people who will ensure our country’s law and order. The draft law, and today’s meeting, put particular emphasis on effectively fighting extremism and maintaining public law and order. As things stood at the end of November, compared to eleven months of 2009, the number of unlawful acts of extremist nature had increased by almost a quarter. This is a bad sign for it signals not just underlying tensions and emotions that exist and spill into the open, but also shortcomings in the work of law enforcement agencies and regional governors.
Public order is the responsibility not only of the law enforcement agencies but also the decision makers in the regions, and this is something I will come back to later.
The police must use the powers the law gives it to prevent extremism and attempts to incite interethnic strife. The events in Moscow and a few other cities these last days show that public order requires substantial and very attentive management. In some cases it is simply not possible to stick to the existing schemes and rely on the idea that the public mood is calm and there are no particular problems.
The events of these last days have shown that unauthorised rallies, demonstrations and pickets, even seemingly harmless memorial meetings, can take a radical turn, violate people’s rights and freedoms, and pose a mass threat to people’s lives and safety. In accordance with the instructions I have already given, these kinds of unapproved events must be firmly suppressed, and if those taking part in these events refuse to obey the authorities, they should be detained without question.
Pogroms, fights and vandalism are all crimes. These are not administrative offenses but crimes, hence the individuals involved should be put in jail; these people must be behind bars as there is no point to educate them because they are not the kind of people who may be educated. Those responsible for committing such crimes should bear criminal and not administrative liability. Everyone must realise this, including offenders and the law enforcement agencies. Respective liability must apply no matter where the events take place, no matter where those responsible are from, whether they are residents of Moscow, or the southern areas, or the northern ones. The liability must apply to anyone, whether dressed in tracksuits, civilian clothes, or any other clothes. As for those in masks, they must be arrested immediately. Why are they hiding behind masks? Are they planning to celebrate New Year by participating in a costume party? Wearing masks at public events means that one belongs to a gang, and there is no need to stand on ceremony with these kinds of people. Order must be kept.
The police in Moscow was very professional in its actions yesterday, preventing potential interethnic clashes and effectively following the provisions of my executive order. I want to say to everyone who took part in these efforts yesterday that they did a good job.
The next point: the Interior Ministry, Investigative Committee and Prosecutor General’s Office must take all necessary measures to ensure criminal prosecution of all those responsible for committing crimes of the recent days, and I stress that this applies to everyone against whom there is enough evidence regarding their part in crimes. I am talking about those who killed the football fan Yegor Sviridov, all of them must be identified and imprisoned. Besides, the situation must be sorted out with the investigators who let the murder suspects go free, it is to be established why they did this, were they intimidated, or did they do it for money? Whatever the case, we know what this is called.
Those who instigated pogroms and fights in Moscow and other places last Saturday and later must be identified, each and every one of them, through use of video cameras footage, eyewitness accounts and other evidence. I want the Interior Minister, Prosecutor General and Chairman of the Investigative Committee to report to me on the work done so far.
I draw the attention of all present to the fact that inciting interethnic hatred is an extremely serious crime in our country. It might be less serious in its implications in some other countries, but you know yourselves how many different ethnic groups we have in Russia and how important the religious element is in our country’s life. These kinds of crimes must therefore be classified accordingly and come with the according penalties too. If the criminal law does not provide sufficient penalties for such crimes, submit proposals to me. On December 11, I signed an executive order on additional measures to maintain law and order in the country. I signed this order based on a number of requests I had received from regional governors.
The state authorities and law enforcement agencies must make a real improvement in coordinating their work to fight crime. Of course, the civilian authorities cannot replace the law enforcement agencies in this task, and this is why we are establishing permanent consultative mechanisms that will be headed by the regional governors. The aim of these consultation mechanisms is to collect and analyse information on the situation in the respective regions, forecast development of events, assess the effectiveness of the regional Interior Ministry departments, executive authorities, local self-government and all other bodies responsible for public order, and plan specific measures to ensure security based on comprehensive action plans that shall be drawn up annually.
Part of the reason for setting up this system is to make sure that if something does happen no one can say to me, “You know, the senior police officers and prosecutors don’t listen to me. I warned them, but they paid no notice”, or, the other way around, say that the regional governor and his team pay no attention to the information the law enforcement agencies provide on the crime situation. Everything said at these consultative meetings will be put on record, because we have had several unfortunate cases recently in which we are still trying to get to the bottom of whether the people in charge knew about what was going on, and whether they had the power to change the situation or not.
Everything will therefore be put on record so as to avoid this kind of situation in the future, and then we can see later who was right and who was wrong. I therefore give the regional governors a month to draft action plans on ensuring law and order in their regions, focusing in particular on extremism prevention, migration problems, corruption, and also juvenile crime. We should probably add drugs-related crime to this list.
Coming back to the draft law On the Police Force, the authorities have a duty to offer police officers reliable social protection guarantees. This was one of the principles underpinning the law right from the start. What do I mean specifically? I am talking about provision of education, medical care and housing. We should make use of all the legal possibilities that the draft law provides in this regard, from helping people to buy apartments of their own to building special housing depending on the actual needs and demand for such apartments at whatever given moment. Of course, the Government must take all of this into account in planning the budget. I discussed precisely this matter with the Finance Minister on the way here to Ryazan.
I have also given the instruction to reform the wage payment system for police officers. As you know, they are the lowest paid people in the law enforcement system at the moment. Their wages will increase substantially soon. I have decided that a police lieutenant’s monthly wage must be at least 33,000 rubles [$1,100] starting in 2012, and the various bonuses and mark-ups bring this figure up to 45,000 rubles a month. I am referring to police lieutenants’ wages here. Rank and file police officers will also see the amount of money they take home increase substantially, and these payments will form a large part of the financial recompense police officers receive.
One other issue that I must address is the problem of child poverty and neglect. In my Address to the Federal Assembly, I spoke about the vital importance of educating the young generation and protecting our children from violence and cruel treatment. Here in Ryazan Region this problem is addressed properly, same as in some other places too. Perhaps this explains why there is less juvenile crime here, as far as I know. But whatever the situation, preventing child neglect and homelessness, and preventing crimes against minors requires the combined efforts of the authorities, public organisations, and the business community – everyone who is ready out of duty or desire to take part in this work. We must remember that these children have ended up in difficult situations, and we should always find a common language with them, fight for each and every one of them, otherwise they may some day join the ranks of those who take part in pogroms and radical groups.
I think that we could make one of the deputy prime ministers responsible for heading the Government Commission on Minors and Protection of Their Rights. I ask the Government to submit to me the relevant proposals.