Bribes, kidnap and murder: Russia's police turns to crime

Bribes, kidnap and murder: Russia's police turns to crime

13th September 2010, Comments 0 comments

Crime and corruption rise in frequency within Russia's police force, as cries for upping the urgency of reform ring loud.

Moscow - Scandals involving police crime are becoming more and more frequent in Russia -- kidnapping, murder, torture and corruption among them -- casting doubts on President Dmitry Medvedev's ability to reform the tainted force.

In the latest incident, four Moscow policemen were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping a businessman and driving off with him in the trunk of their car. The man's wife told police that her husband had been kidnapped from outside their house by camouflaged attackers.

The case was not unprecedented: Three Moscow police officers had kidnapped two women in February, demanding EUR 50,000 and threatening that the families would be framed in drugs cases if they failed to pay up.

Police often use heavy-handed tactics and are swift to pull the trigger. In January a journalist was beaten to death by a policeman in Omsk, while in Moscow a lieutenant colonel fired a fatal shot at the driver of a snow plough that had grazed his car.

A month earlier, an investigator in Siberia shot a suspect during questioning.
Colonel Pyotr Smirnov, deputy commander of Moscow's OMON (Special Purpose Police Unit) talks to press in Moscow.

In the most shocking case, Moscow police major Denis Yevsyukov was convicted in February of two counts of murder and 22 counts of attempted murder after he walked into a supermarket and randomly shot at staff and customers.

Yevsyukov committed the crime while offduty, but still wearing his police uniform jacket. He killed a cashier and injured seven others in the supermarket after shooting the taxi driver who drove him there.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg regularly condemns Russia for police torture and draws attention to the slow investigations, the tardy opening of criminal cases, and the mild sentences handed out to offenders, leading to a feeling of impunity among police officers.

In the latest example of such mild treatment, two Saint Petersburg policemen investigating the theft of a mo-ped tried to extract confessions from two teenagers by burning their genitals with cigarettes and suffocating them with plastic bags.

The two men were sentenced in July to three years in prison each, with one receiving a suspended sentence.

It is hardly surprising that 67 percent of Russians say they fear the police, according to a survey carried out by Levada, an independent polling centre.

The most high-profile cases led to the sackings of senior police officials and the Kremlin has called for reforms in an attempt to curb police crime, particularly the force's all-pervasive corruption.

According to a report by the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human rights, a police officer who specialises in organised crime and protects a criminal operation can earn as much as USD 20,000 per month.

Even a rank-and-file traffic policeman pockets an average of USD 5,000 per month in backhanders.
Col. Smirnov (L) and Colonel Sergey Yevtikov (R), commander of the 2nd battalion of OMON talk during a live broadcasting on Echo of Moscow radio.

Captain Arkady Kirsanov from the southern Astrakhan region was arrested in February earning more than USD 10,000 per month by extorting money from drivers, along with 13 other members of his unit, investigators said.

Out of the 5,000 crimes committed by police in 2009 (up 11 percent from 2008), more than 3,000 were linked to corruption and abuse of power, according to official statistics.

Two policemen in recent months have taken the risk of publicly exposing their colleagues' ill-doing in whistleblowing videos.

The first, Alexei Dymovsky, a police major from the southern city of Novorossiisk, was fired after he posted a video on YouTube alleging chronic corruption in his force.

He was later detained for one and a half months and convicted of slander over the video, in which he issued a litany of complaints about the conditions of work and said officers were treated like "cattle".

Another police major, Mikhail Yevseyev, was arrested last week on numerous charges after he made a video accusing police of fabricating evidence that led to the conviction of two innocent people.

Nicolas Miletitch / AFP / Expatica

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