Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 1

President Boris Yeltsin and Nikolai Bordyuzha, the new head of his administration and secretary of his advisory Security Council, have said that the fight against organized crime, corruption and political extremism will be priorities in 1999. Moscow is reportedly leading this fight. The official crime tally for Moscow in 1998 showed that overall crime in the capital grew in 1998, but at a slower pace than in other Russian regions. According to the Main Internal Affairs Directorate (GUVD), which is in charge of law enforcement in Moscow, 73,086 crimes were committed last year in the capital–2,006 (2.8 percent) more than in 1997. The number of murders dropped significantly: 1,180 were committed in 1998, 20.2 percent fewer than in 1997. The number of rapes stayed roughly the same–216 in 1998 compared with 214 in 1997. The number of robberies–2,946–was up 1.7 percent over 1997. According to GUVD statistics, the biggest growth was in narcotics sales and possession–a total of 10,147 cases, up 20 percent over 1997 (Moskovsky komsomolets, January 4).

Late in December, Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin called on all of Russia’s “power structures” to activate measures against narcotics trafficking (Russian agencies, December 30; see also the Monitor, December 23). The Moscow authorities have also again taken the lead in measures opposing anti-Semitic activities. They have reportedly created “special mobile groups” within the city police to ensure the security of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, along with Jewish schools, cultural centers and social organizations (Moskovsky komsomolets, January 4). As a part of these measures, in December Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov banned a planned congress by the ultra-nationalist Russian National Unity movement.

On January 2, Stepashin said that his agency will monitor the situation closely in Russia’s Baltic Sea ports, in the fuel and energy sector, and in the production and sale of alcoholic drinks. Stepashin said a special interdepartmental task force headed by two of his deputies, Vladimir Rushailo and Pyotr Latyshev, would look into the situation at ports in St. Petersburg and the neighboring Leningrad region. Stepashin also mentioned ports in southern Russian–specifically, those in Novorossiisk and Dagestan (Russian agencies, January 2). The fuel and energy sector, alcohol production and sales and Russia’s ports have all been priority targets of organized crime groups for some years now.

In December, President Boris Yeltsin criticized Stepashin for having presented him with too rosy a picture of the crime situation; Yeltsin warned Stepashin at the time not to doctor the crime statistics (see the Monitor, December 23). Some analysts saw these statements as a sign that the president was poised to remove Stepashin. On December 30, however, Yeltsin presented Stepashin with an Order of Bravery for his contribution to the fight against crime (Russian agencies, December 30).