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Ustinov Criticizes Police and Military

In a broadside attack on corruption and incompetence in every so-called power agency but his own, Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov on Friday chastised police for covering up crimes, accused the Federal Anti-Drug Service of being an essentially redundant agency and said that the number of military officers who committed crimes last year would add up to two regiments.

Speaking at a meeting of prosecutors Friday, Ustinov said police officers nationwide had covered up more than 700 murders, 1,500 assaults and 80,000 property-related crimes.

"Not even the threat of sitting in the defendant's cage stops police officers from covering up crimes," Ustinov said, Interfax reported.

Ustinov said more than 3.5 million crimes were committed in Russia in 2005, a 25 percent jump from the previous year, and that the number of unsolved crimes had risen by one-third compared with 2004, reaching more than 1.6 million, including more than 5,000 manslaughters, RIA-Novosti reported.

Ustinov said it had "become the norm" with many investigators to "ignore" their responsibilities to conduct thorough investigations, Interfax reported.

President Vladimir Putin, who spoke at the start of the meeting, called the more than 70,000 unsolved disappearances of people in 2005 "a frightening number, one that is even frightening to say," Interfax reported.

Ustinov also said crime was rising in the armed forces, and blamed the trend largely on officers. "You could form two regiments out of the number of officers that committed crimes last year," Ustinov said, Interfax reported.

He said some 16,000 servicemen were charged with criminal offenses, and that 550 officers were punished for beating underlings, RIA-Novosti reported. Ustinov cited as an extreme example the New Year's Eve attack on a young soldier at the Chelyabinsk Armor Academy, which led to the amputation of the man's legs and genitals.

Ustinov said more than 1,000 servicemen had been charged with theft. "They stole enough money to buy three dozen modern tanks," he said.

Turning to the Federal Drug Control Service, he said its army of 40,000 officials investigated only one-third of all drug-related crimes. "Other law-enforcement agencies have to do the rest," he said.

The agency has uncovered only 124 incidents of illegal drug production and a little more than 3,000 cases of dealing and possession, Ustinov said.

Putin set up the agency in 2003, but it has courted controversy for, among other things, aggressively seeking out veterinarians who use ketamine, an anesthetic commonly used in pet operations but included on a list of illegal substances.

Lev Levinson, a lawyer and expert at the Human Rights Institute, welcomed Ustinov's "harsh" criticism but said the Prosecutor General's Office needed to implement better measures to battle corruption and incompetence within its own ranks.

"When it comes to overseeing the police, its quite good," Levinson said of Ustinov's office. "Commenting on the military, it's more of an independent observer. But when it comes to its own people, it has difficulties remaining unbiased."

The Prosecutor General's Office is responsible for ensuring that other federal agencies comply with the law and for investigating cases of abuse.

Kommersant on Saturday ridiculed Ustinov for finding fault with other agencies but saying strikingly little about the work of his own agency during his speech, which lasted two hours.

In one of the few references to his office, Ustinov said: "The prosecutor's office is probably the only federal agency where ordinary citizens can bring their troubles and everyday problems," Kommersant reported.

In his sweeping remarks, Ustinov also said many Russians suffered from a lack of heating and electricity, that regional and local administrations did not allow small business to develop and that conditions in many prisons were unsatisfactory. He said Russia's national idea rests on a love for the motherland, and quoted from the 19th-century historian Vasily Klyuchevsky and the 19th-century poet Nikolai Nekrasov as he wrapped up his speech, Kommersant reported.

Putin said at his annual news conference on Tuesday that he was currently listening to recordings of Klyuchevsky's lectures while traveling by car.

(The Moscow Times 06.ii.06)

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