Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin laid out his plans for reforming the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) after a meeting with President Boris Yeltsin on June 15. Within the next two years, Stepashin said, the ministry’s troops will be cut from the present 240,000 to around 150,000. This will mean a sharp reduction in the number of Interior troops (VV) and a reordering of priorities to improve the caliber of the regular police and concentrate on the fight against crime. Stepashin said he wants to move to an all-volunteer force and dispense with the use of conscript servicemen. He denied rumors that the VV will be incorporated into the regular army under the Defense Ministry, however: “We must retain a different internal military that does not duplicate the ground forces.” (Russian agencies, June 15)
Reform is long overdue. The staff of the MVD grew rapidly in the early 1990s because Yeltsin wanted a force he felt he could rely on: He realized that he could not trust the Defense Ministry alone after sections of the army supported the failed coup of August 1991. By 1995, the MVD numbered some 400,000 men. Stepashin, appointed to head the MVD in March, is keen to assert his control. At a time when the Russian government needs to tighten its belt, he has the support of Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko in cutting the number of troops and reordering priorities. Stepashin has said that reform will enable the pay of those police officers who remain to be raised and for the police to be better equipped. (Russky telegraf, April 15; TV6 Moscow, April 19)
The number of reported crimes has grown by sixty percent over the last three years and the police have not been able to control the rise in violent and organized crime. Stepashin’s predecessor, Anatoly Kulikov, claimed that the police were solving between 70 and 80 percent of reported crimes. Since the average conviction rate in most other countries is around thirty or forty percent, observers suspected either that Kulikov was inflating the statistics or that the police were obtaining convictions by illegitimate means to. According to a report issued in the spring by the Prosecutor-General’s Office, a large number of arrests are carried out improperly and beating of persons in detention to extract confessions is widespread. Police corruption is endemic and opinion polls show that public trust in the police is even lower than it was during the Soviet era. (Komsomolskaya pravda, April 8)
HEAVY FALLOUT FROM PRIMAKOV’S VISIT TO LITHUANIA.