Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 157

While the perpetrators of and motives for the August 8 bombing of a pedestrian underpass in central Moscow have yet to be established, comments from top officials and other leading politicians suggest the incident may further strengthen the hand of Russia’s special services. In the wake of the bombing, for example, Deputy Prime Minister Aleksei Kudrin announced that he and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov had discussed “a number of decisions which will guarantee security in the Russian Federation.” Meanwhile, Boris Gryzlov, who heads the pro-Kremlin Unity party’s faction in the State Duma, said that parliamentarians were expecting to receive draft legislation that would “spell out a whole series of rights for the law enforcement structures” and would be aimed at “strengthening order in the country.” While Gryzlov did not give specifics about what such legislation might entail or who would initiate it, the initiators of such draft laws would likely be either President Vladimir Putin and/or the other security service veterans among his immediate subordinates, like Security Council Secretary Sergei Ivanov and Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev.

A newspaper today quoted unnamed parliamentarians as saying that that the new legislation would be aimed above all at amending the law which spells out the powers of the FSB, Interior Ministry and other law enforcement agencies. The paper quoted Duma sources as saying that the FSB and Interior Ministry might be given a freer hand in investigating terrorism and organized crime activities. Such a move would receive support not only from Unity and other pro-Putin factions in the State Duma, but also from the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). Indeed, KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov said yesterday he would back any tough measures in the fight against crime and terrorism. Zyuganov said he had a two-hour meeting with Putin on August 9 (Nezavismaya gazeta, August 11). It should be noted that some people feel that Russia’s special services already have too much power: Indeed, back in 1995, human rights activists and others expressed misgivings over the then-new law governing the FSB, warning that it gave the security service powers far beyond those enjoyed by security agencies in democratic countries.

Meanwhile, in another sign of the political mood in the wake of the Pushkin Square bombing, Gennady Raikov, leader of the pro-Putin People’s Deputy faction in the State Duma, called for rescinding the moratorium on the death penalty for serious crimes. “Explosions are already thundering in the center of Moscow,” Raikov said. “Order needs to be restored.” Russia put a moratorium on the death penalty in order to meet the conditions for membership in the Council of Europe (Izvestia, August 11).