Security Forces



FSA        Federal security Agency.created following incorporation of the ISS         into the Russian KGB in late November 1991.

ISS          Interrepublican Security Service. One of four agencies created to              replace the USSER KGB in late October 1991. One month later its            structure and personnel were incorporated into the russian KGB.

KGB        USSR State Comittee for Security.

MB         Russian Federation Ministry of Security (Ministerstvo      Bezopasnosti). Established 24 January 1992 after Yeltsin's                 unsuccessful attempt to amalgamate the FSA and MVD in         December 1991.

MVD      Ministry of Internal Affairs.

OMON   Specialized Purpose Militia Detachments (Otryad Militsii Osobogo                 Naznacheniya). The MVD riot squads.

1.                INTRODUCTION

The Soviet Union has been described as a "police state in the classical sense of the term," where "law exist[ed] for the benefit of the state" (World Encyclopedia 1989, 391). Instead of protecting the rights of the individual, internal security agencies in the USSR were designed above all to uphold the Communist Party's monopoly on political power (Knight 1988, 183-84). The period since the failed coup attempt of August 1991 has witnessed a flurry of legal and administrative changes in the security organs of the USSR's principal successor state, Russia. Protection of the individual in Russia remains problematic, however, owing to the climate of chaos and social decay in the country and the enduring legacies of the Communist era. To be sure, any generalizations must be made cautiously; conditions vary greatly from region to region in contemporary Russia, so few descriptive statements have universal validity (The New York Review of Books 28 Jan. 1993, 30-32; Barikhnovskaya 5 June 1993, 1; Black 29 June 1993). Detailed information on the operation of security forces in rural areas is limited, nevertheless it seems fair to state that public perceptions of internal security forces as instruments of state power to be reviled or feared persists to this day (Katzarova 17 June 1993; Solomon 16 June 1993; RFE/RL 14 May 1993b, 83).

This paper will examine the principal aspects of internal security in Russia: the successors to the USSR KGB (now the MB), the MVD and the militia. The status of the Ministry of Defence, which is charged primarily with external security, will not be considered here, apart from a brief discussion of the police functions of the Russian army.

1.1               Chronological Note

The prominent role of the USSR State Committee for Security (KGB) in the planning and execution of the abortive coup of 19-21 August 1991 generated strong support for the liquidation of this bulwark of the Soviet security apparatus (Post-Soviet Affairs Jan.-Mar. 1993, 42). Accordingly, in late October 1991 the USSR KGB was disbanded and replaced by four new agencies: the Interrepublican Security Service (ISS), which assumed responsibility for domestic security; the Government Communications Committee; the Central Intelligence Service; and finally, the Committee for the Protection of the State Border (Ibid., 44; RFE/RL 3 Jan. 1992, 19). A month later the ISS was abolished and its structures and personnel were incorporated into the Russian (republican) KGB, which was renamed the Federal Security Agency (FSA) at the end of November 1991 (Post-Soviet Affairs Jan.-Mar. 1993, 45-46; RFE/RL 27 Mar. 1992, 2). After the Supreme Russian Constitutional Court invalidated Yeltsin's December 1991 attempt to amalgamate the FSA and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD), the Russian Federation Ministry of Security (Ministerstvo Bezopasnosti) was established by presidential decree on 24 January 1992 (Post-Soviet Affairs Jan.-Mar. 1993, 46). The MB acquired the "personnel, financial assets, buildings and other resources" of the FSA, while the Russian MVD continues to exist as a separate organ (Ibid.).

Subsequent legislation on the role of the security forces includes the March 1992 Law on Security (RFE/RL 8 Jan. 1993), the 8 July 1992 Law on Federal Organs of State Security (Rossiskaya Gazeta 12 Aug. 1992), and the 24 September 1992 Law on Internal Troops (Rossiskaya Gazeta 23 Oct. 1992). The Soviet-era Law on the Militia (local police) has yet to be replaced (Barikhnovskaya 10 June 1993).

Since late 1992, public discussion and government policy has focused increasingly on the role of the security organs in combating corruption and organized crime. In October 1992, Yeltsin established a joint commission to coordinate the anticorruption efforts of the ministries of Security, Defence and Internal Affairs (RFE/RL 5 Mar. 1993, 18). In addressing the "All-Russia Conference on Problems of the Fight Against Organized Crime and Corruption" in February 1993, both Yeltsin and his minister of security labelled organized crime "a direct threat to Russia's strategic interests and national security" and called for a commensurate "strengthening of law and order enforcement bodies" (ITAR-TASS 12 Feb. 1993; Ibid. 13 Feb. 1993).


2.1         KGB Successor Organizations

Continuities exist between the central security organs of the Soviet era and the contemporary Russian MB. While the foreign intelligence apparatus of the former First Directorate of the USSR KGB now operates separately and reports directly to President Yeltsin as the Russian Foreign Intelligence Agency (RFE/RL 27 Mar. 1992, 1; Post-Soviet Affairs Jan-Mar. 1993, 56), the MB is "the legal successor to the KGB's internal security services" (RFE/RL 8 Jan. 1993, 18). The structure of the new ministry closely resembles that of the KGB. The three MB main administrations--for Economic Security, Combating Contraband and Corruption, and Internal Security--have assumed the functions of the former Second, Fourth and Sixth Directorates of the KGB. Additionally, the Administration for Combating Terrorism succeeds the former Fifth Directorate, and the Main Administration for Military Counterintelligence replaces the former Third Directorate of the USSR KGB (Ibid.; The New York Times Magazine 24 Nov. 1991, 68). The MB numbers about 318,000, including some 180,000 border guard troops who were transferred to MB jurisdiction after the Committee for the Protection of the State Border was abolished in June 1992 (Post-Soviet Affairs Jan-Mar. 1993, 47; RFE/RL 14 May 1993a, 75; Rahr 28 June 1993).

Similarities between the MB and USSR KGB are especially pronounced with regard to personnel. In early 1992 a former KGB agent estimated that "90% to 95% of [KGB] middle management [were] still in the positions they had before the coup" (The Wall Street Journal 12 Feb. 1992, A12). A year later former KGB chief Vadim Bakatin acknowledged that "the very same people" were still in place (Radio Moscow World Service 20 Feb. 1993). The MB's initial first deputy minister, Anatolii Oleinikov, had been a career KGB officer since 1968 (RFE/RL 27 Mar. 1992, 3), and the recently appointed chief of city and regional security in St. Petersburg has been described as "a well-known fighter against dissidents" (ITAR-TASS 21 Feb. 1993). At the oblast level the "old KGB network" has reportedly "survived almost unchanged" (RFE/RL 27 Mar. 1992, 3; Solomon 29 June 1993).

From January 1992 until late July 1993, the minister responsible for the MB was Viktor Barannikov. On 27 July 1993 Yeltsin dismissed Barannikov after rebuking him for being caught unaware by a rebel attack on Russian border guards in Tajikistan and for possible abuse of office (The Globe and Mail 28 July 1993, A10).

2.2           MVD Forces

The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) oversees the operations of both the internal troops and the local police forces (militia), the latter of which will be discussed separately. Unlike the former KGB, the MVD has seen little structural change since the collapse of the USSR and retains its Soviet-era reputation as "the most corrupt" of Russia's law-enforcement agencies (RFE/RL 5 Mar. 1993, 17). The current minister, Viktor Yerin, served in the USSR MVD for more than 25 years before assuming his present post in January 1992 (Komsomolskaya Pravda 7 Nov. 1992; Post-Soviet Affairs Jan-Mar. 1993, 48). One U.S. expert has only been able to estimate the figure at "several hundred thousand" (Ibid.). Western estimates in 1990 and 1991 were in the range of 250,000 to 350,000 for the entire USSR, but republic-by-republic data were not available (RFE/RL 8 June 1990, 7; Ibid. 26 Oct. 1990, 14; Ibid. 6 Sept. 1991, 5). In October 1992 Yeltsin revealed that the size of the MVD "recently" had been increased by 50,000, and called for a further increase of between 50,000 and 100,000; it is unclear how these numbers are to be distributed, however (Ibid. 5 Mar. 1993, 18).

The MVD riot squads (Otryad Militsii Osobogo Naznacheniya, OMON), or Specialized Purpose Militia Detachments, which reportedly topped 10,000 at the time of the August coup (Ibid. 6 Sept. 1991, 6), numbered just 5,500 a year later (Russian Television Network 11 Aug. 1992). According to one western specialist, as of June 1993 there were OMON detachments in 60 cities across the Russian Federation, ranging in size from several hundred troops in medium-sized cities such as Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg, to 1,500 in Moscow (Yasmann 28 June 1993).

2.3             The Militia

According to the 18 April 1991 RSFSR Law on the Militia, which as noted above has not been amended or replaced since the collapse of the USSR, the Russian militia is subdivided into the "criminal militia" and the "militia for public security" (local militia), both of which are subordinate to the MVD. The local militias are also accountable to the local legislative and executive organs in their respective territorial jurisdictions (Russia 18 Apr. 1991, art. 7). As with the MVD internal troops, precise figures on the size of the Russian militia are not available; western estimates in 1990 ranged from 475,000 to 700,000 (RFE/RL 8 June 1990, 7; Ibid. 26 Oct. 1990, 13).


3.1        KGB Successor Organizations

According to articles 1 and 2 of the 8 July 1992 Russian Federation Law on Federal Organs of State Security, these bodies are to "provide for the security of the individual, society and the state" by engaging in work "to detect, prevent and cut short the intelligence and subversive activity of foreign intelligence services," "terrorism," "organized crime, corruption and the drug business," as well as "crimes whose investigation has been transferred by law to the federal organs of state security" (Rossiyskaya Gazeta 12 Aug. 1992). Although one MB spokesman recently described the countering of foreign intelligence services as the ministry's "main goal" (ITAR-TASS 27 Jan. 1993), others have given priority to the fight against corruption and organized crime (Ibid. 13 Feb. 1993; Interfax 30 Oct. 1992; Post-Soviet Affairs Jan-Mar. 1993, 49). The means placed at the security organs' disposal includes the right to carry handguns, use of solitary confinement, wiretapping and "unimpeded [entry] into housing and other premises" with only post facto notification of the procuracy (Rossiyskaya Gazeta 12 Aug. 1992, art. 13). This has raised concerns both in Russia and abroad that the KGB ethos of disregard for individual rights persists in the post-Soviet era (Izvestiya 16 Mar. 1993; Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Mar. 1993, 101-03; Review of Central and East European Law 1992, 247-48).

In early May 1993, an MB official reportedly outlined to Izvestiya the process by which the security ministry could conduct surveillance of political parties. According to the official, the Ministry of Justice, the Constitutional Court and Parliament can authorize MB activities such as the "infiltration of agents" into political parties deemed "outside the law," or the "bugging of telephone conversations" of their members (7 May 1993). In early June 1993 the MB announced recent agreements with security services of other countries, including Turkey, Greece, Poland and China, to coordinate their efforts in combating international crime, terrorism, illegal trade in weapons and drug trafficking (ITAR-TASS World Service 2 June 1993).

3.2    MVD Forces

MVD internal troops are empowered to provide "assistance to internal affairs agencies of the Russian Federation in maintaining public order and ensuring public safety," to guard "important state installations" and "corrective labor institutions," and to participate in "the territorial defence of the Russian Federation" (Rossiyskaya Gazeta 23 Oct. 1992, art. 2). They have the right to detain and transfer to the militia anyone who has committed or attempted to commit an offence or has "encroached upon guarded facilities" (Ibid., art. 23). In "an emergency situation" such as that declared in North Ossetia and Ingushetia, for example, MVD troops have the right to enter housing "unimpeded," to "detain citizens violating curfew until the curfew is over," and to detain persons lacking identification for up to three days (Ibid.).

Since the collapse of the USSR, MVD internal troops have played a prominent role in the effort to contain ethnic conflict in North Ossetia and Ingushetia, where they were despatched in fall 1992 "to insure the safety of civilians, to prevent activities by illegal armed organizations and illegal distribution of arms, and to assist local internal affairs organs in solving and investigating serious crimes" (Central Television 2 Nov. 1992). This mission appears to have placed considerable strain on MVD internal troops' morale and resources, as reflected in the sudden resignation of their commander following a tour of the region last fall (Rossiyskiye Vesti 13 Nov. 1992). MVD internal troops were also deployed "to prevent any mass unrest" during the March 1993 demonstrations in Moscow (AFP 23 Mar. 1993; Ibid. 27 Mar. 1993).

August 1992 reports indicated that the OMON was no longer being used to counter civil unrest. According to an MVD spokesman, detachments were only being deployed at the request of local authorities to support the crime-fighting efforts of the militia (Russian Television Network 11 Aug. 1992; Mayak Radio Network 11 Aug. 1992). In spite of this apparent change in function, OMON force999s were directly involved in the 1 May 1993 clashes in Moscow (Radio Rossii Network 1 May 1993; Mayak Radio Network 3 May 1993).

3.3              The Militia

As noted above, the militia is functionally subdivided into the "criminal militia" and the "militia for public security" (local militia). Members of the criminal militia conduct criminal investigations and are responsible for the whole process of pre-trial inquiry (Russia 18 Apr. 1991, art. 8; Solomon 21 June 1993). The local militia most closely approximates a western police force, with functions ranging from patrolling the streets and traffic control to apprehending criminals and dealing with public complaints (Russia 18 Apr. 1991, art. 9, 10; Solomon 21 June 1993). Although recent amendments to Russia's criminal code have placed new limits on the militia's powers of arrest and detention (Rossiyskaya Gazeta 17 June 1992; Solomon 21 June 1993), their broad powers of search and entry, as well as existing provisions governing the use of firearms and physical force, continue to cause concern from a human rights standpoint. The failure to "spell out the conditions under which...entry into a house or the interception of permitted" is considered to be dangerously open-ended (Review of Central and East European Law 1992, 246-49). One Russian human rights lawyer contends that articles 12 and 15 of the current Law on the Militia make it too easy for the police to shoot first and ask questions later (Barikhnovskaya, 10 June 1993; Ibid. 16 June 1993; Russia 18 Apr. 1991).

3.4      Police Functions of the Russian Army

In the final year of the Soviet regime the Communist leadership responded to what it called "a crisis in economic and street crime" by deploying 12,000 army troops to 86 cities to maintain joint patrols with local police (The New York Times 6 Feb. 1991, A1). In January 1993 the mayor of Moscow arranged to reinforce patrol duty militia with "well trained and armed" military servicemen (Moskovskiy Komsomolets 29 Jan. 1993; The Ottawa Citizen 30 Jan. 1993, A10), but this action has proved only temporary (Rahr 28 June 1993; Jones 28 June 1993); a recent visitor to Moscow reported no signs of army troops patrolling city streets (Yasmann 28 June 1993).


4.1   Impact of the Transition on Security Forces

The political and social transformations of the post-Soviet era have placed considerable strain on Russia's security forces. The comparatively ordered world of the Communist Party dictatorship has given way to an atmosphere of confusion and uncertainty where "freedom" easily translates into "license" (The New York Times 26 Dec. 1992, 4; Ibid., 30 Aug. 1992, 1, 15; The Wall Street Journal 16 Mar. 1992, A15; The New York Times Magazine 24 Jan. 1993; RFE/RL 14 May 1993b, 83). It appears, therefore, that the security forces' ability to protect the individual is as much an issue as its willingness to do so. It is against this backdrop that protection of the individual in contemporary Russia must be viewed.

The problem of crime in post-Soviet Russia, including organized crime, has become especially acute. MVD statistics indicate a 27 per cent increase in reported crimes during 1992, and a near doubling in the overall crime rate since 1985 (RFE/RL 14 May 1993b, 80-81). Two western observers feel that even allowing for a likely increase in reporting of crimes, these figures might well be understated (Ibid., 80-82). Estimates of the number of organized criminal groups operating in Russia range from 2,600 to more than 4,000 (The New York Times Magazine 24 Jan. 1993, 15; ITAR-TASS 29 Dec. 1992; Rossiyskiye Vesti 30 Dec. 1992), including "over 1,000 with international and interregional links" (Nezavisimaya Gazeta 12 Feb. 1993). The unprecedented growth in crime and social corruption contrasts with a militia that is grossly understaffed, underpaid and short of means as basic as fuel for patrol cars (Komsomolskaya Pravda 7 Nov. 1992; Kommersant-Daily 16 Feb. 1993; The New York Times Magazine 24 Jan. 1993; RFE/RL 14 May 1993b, 85).

MVD internal troops appear to be faring no better. Senior MVD officials complain of chronic understaffing, a situation exacerbated by the "acute shortage" of draftees, on which the internal troops have traditionally relied for recruits (Krasnaya Zvezda 30 Dec. 1992; Central Television 2 Nov. 1992; Rahr 28 June 1993; Jones 28 June 1993). As of November 1992 the Moscow militia alone was reportedly short some 7,000 personnel (Kuranty 11 Nov. 1992); some months later, one western source placed that shortfall in the "tens of thousands" (RFE/RL 14 May 1993b, 84). In February 1993 the Minister of Internal Affairs reported that 63,000 "professionals" had left the militia during 1992 (Kommersant-Daily 16 Feb. 1993).

Such shortages have clearly eroded the militia's ability to protect the citizens it serves. To help alleviate the situation, one billion rubles was recently allocated to hire 40,000 "contract volunteers" (Radio Rossii Network 25 Feb. 1993). Among these "volunteers" are skilled personnel such as Afghan veterans and officers formerly stationed in eastern Europe who are drawn into MVD service with offers of high salaries and attractive benefits (Yasmann 28 June 1993).

The security forces' activities have been complicated by the legal and administrative chaos left in the wake of the collapse of the USSR. At the February 1993 Moscow conference on crime and corruption, Yeltsin complained that confusion over the demarcation of authority between executive and legislative bodies and federal and local levels of government was "literally paralysing the work of the law enforcement bodies. Sometimes they do not know whose rights to protect, or who is the victim and who is the offender" (ITAR-TASS 12 Feb. 1993). During a November 1992 phone-in interview with Minister of Internal Affairs Viktor Yerin, one caller claimed she had reported a death threat made against her to the militia, only to be told the matter was not "within their competence," while another recounted how the militia's search for his missing son had bogged down in a bureaucratic quagmire (Komsomolskaya Pravda 7 Nov. 1992).

MVD corruption and inefficiency may have been widespread during the Soviet period (RFE/RL 8 June 1990, 7; Ibid. 5 Mar. 1993, 17), but these problems have increased since the collapse of the USSR (The New York Times 30 Aug. 1992, 1, 15). According to the minister of internal affairs, fully 20 per cent of the 63,000 "professionals" who left the militia in 1992 "went over to the enemy," in other words, joined the criminal underworld (Kommersant-Daily 16 Feb. 1993). Yerin's claim is supported by western reports of former members of state security forces who now work for criminal organizations, or who provide private security services through operations that amount to little more than protection rackets (The New York Times 30 Aug. 1992, 1, 15; The Wall Street Journal 16 Mar. 1992, A15). Rather than turning to the police, many business people in Moscow have created their own security companies to deal with the plethora of criminal threats they now face (The New York Times 23 Dec. 1992, A4; Yasmann 28 June 1993).               

The willingness of security forces to protect individuals is also a cause for concern, particularly where the rights of ethnic minorities are involved. Police treatment of African students has been called into question as a result of two incidents in Moscow in August and November 1992. In the first, a student from Zimbabwe was fatally shot by a police officer. A protest by other African students the next day turned violent, with reports of police brutality. The policeman responsible for the shooting was subsequently charged under article 171 of the Russian criminal code, which prohibits "abuse of power." The offence carries a penalty of two years hard labour, three years imprisonment or dismissal (The Boston Globe 14 Aug. 1992; Los Angeles Times 13 Aug. 1992). In the November incident, a student from Rwanda died after being pushed out a window by Russian students at a Moscow University dormitory. A Moscow News report indicates that militia investigation of this incident was inadequate and that police had a record of indifferent and even hostile behaviour toward Africans living in the Russian capital (20-27 Dec. 1992, 9). Similar bigotry has characterized the actions of other branches of the security forces with respect to citizens of non-Slavic origin. During their periodic sweeps through markets and street bazaars in Moscow and St. Petersburg, MVD OMON troops have allegedly targeted and singled out traders from the Transcaucasus region, including Azerbaijanis, Georgians, Dagestanis and Chechens, for beatings, confiscation of money and other abuses (The New York Times 20 Oct. 1992, A3; Yasmann 28 June 1993).

Discrimination on the basis of political beliefs has also been observed; one western visitor recently watched as Moscow militiamen surrounded a group of aged Communist sympathizers and beat them with clubs for no apparent reason (Yasmann 28 June 1993).

With respect to anti-Semitism in Russia, Peter Solomon, a professor of political science at the University of Toronto, recently indicated that he has heard numerous "stories" of Moscow Jews who have suffered verbal or physical abuse and have found it next to impossible to get the police to take up their complaints. He adds, however, that it remains unclear whether this reflects anti-Semitism within the police, individual officers' fear of reprisals from anti-Semitic groups, or simple laziness (Solomon 29 June 1993).

Reports indicate that the police response was inadequate to at least three anti-Semitic incidents in 1992 and 1993. On 8 July 1992 the Jewish cemetery in Penza was vandalized, but the militia "declined" to investigate the incident (Monitor 13 Nov. 1992, 2). On 13 October 1992, 25 members of the anti-Semitic organization Pamyat stormed an editorial meeting of the newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets, reportedly tying up a guard and holding newspaper staff hostage for about 30 minutes. They demanded the names and addresses of journalists who had written unfavourable articles about the group. One report indicates that some of those involved in the raid were armed (RFE/RL 23 Oct. 1992, 68; Forward 23 Oct. 1992). Reports on the police response differ, with one stating that the militia response was "delayed," another indicating that police arrived 20 minutes after Pamyat members had left the scene, and a third reporting that they did not arrive until "40 minutes after the incident" (Monitor 6 Nov. 1992, 3; RFE/RL 23 Oct. 1992; Forward 23 Oct. 1992). Only two of the Pamyat members who took part in the raid were charged, and in late May 1993 one was convicted and sentenced to "three years' probation" for "interfering with journalistic activity" (Monitor 21 May 1993, 2).

Moscow's Choral Synagogue was the site of an anti-Semitic attack on 12 June 1993. According to a local human rights bureau, police did not send an investigator until two days after the incident. The synagogue's chairman reportedly asked the militia for police protection, to which the response was that such security measures could only be provided at a high price. After a second attack in mid-July, the synagogue chairman renewed his request for militia patrols outside the building (Monitor 18 June 1993a, 2; Ibid. 25 June-2 July 1993, 2; Ibid. 16-23 July 1993, 2).

The police and prosecutor's office acted more forcefully against the distribution of anti-Semitic flyers in Yekaterinburg in June 1993, with the prosecutor's office launching an investigation into the incident. Two reportedly anti-Semitic newspapers are published in Yekaterinburg. One, Russky Soyuz (Russian Union), is produced by the Russian National Union, whose leader was in police custody at the time of the incident (Monitor 18 June 1993b, 2).

4.2  Security Force Functions and Human Rights

Respect for internationally accepted norms of human rights figures prominently in the laws and regulations governing the operation of Russia's security forces (Russia 18 Apr. 1991, art. 3; Rossiskaya Gazeta 12 Aug. 1992, art. 4 and 5; Ibid. 23 Oct. 1992, art. 3). This is consistent with the goal of transforming Russia into a "law-based" society where the citizen is superior to the state and the state is bound by the law. This goal is embodied in the Resolution on Judicial Reform and the Declaration on Human and Civil Rights and Freedoms, both passed by the Supreme Soviet of Russia late in 1991 (RFE/RL 3 July 1992, 41-42). Nevertheless, human rights experts have discerned critical flaws pertaining to Russia's security forces in the legislation as it now stands (Review of Central and East European Law 1992, 246-49). Rather than having the procedural checks and balances associated with legal oversight in democratic societies, the March 1992 Law on Security is said to embody "the Soviet conception of government which rejected separation of powers and saw all branches of the legal system as engaged in a unified struggle against crime" (Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Mar. 1993, 100).

On the question of whether or not security forces are complying with internationally accepted norms of human rights, definitive conclusions are difficult to reach. Given the diversity of regional conditions in Russia, generalizations are next to impossible. What remains, therefore, is simply to list examples of security forces' behaviour that are questionable from a human rights perspective.

Unsanctioned invasion of privacy in the form of wiretapping persists, although "at reduced levels" (Country Reports 1992 1993, 887; Rahr 28 June 1993). According to one western specialist, the MB lacks the resources necessary to engage in wiretapping on the scale of its Soviet-era predecessor (Rahr 28 June 1993). Nevertheless, the March 1992 Law on Security states that while permission for such activity must be obtained from the procuracy, this requirement is waived in cases where "inaction under the circumstances may result in a terrorist or subversive act" (Country Reports 1992 1993, 887). According to one western observer, MB personnel engaged in wiretapping in Moscow increasingly have been applying for permission, although the practice is still rare in the rest of the country (Rahr 28 June 1993). A human rights lawyer from St. Petersburg reports that her phone has been tapped as a result of her husband's work on an unofficial board that oversees the MB (Barikhnovskaya 10 June 1993). She further alleges that a former dissident of her acquaintance was severely beaten last year after contributing to a television documentary about a former high-ranking KGB official (Ibid.).

With respect to the role of security forces in maintaining public order, frequent demonstrations in 1992 remained "peaceful and unhindered by police" (Country Reports 1992 1993, 889). As reported in a number of Russian media, many demonstrations that took place between October 1992 and late June 1993 were free of violence, often with security forces interposing themselves between opposing political groups. For example, on 26 and 27 March 1993, the militia set up barricades to keep supporters of "democratically oriented parties and movements" and those of "patriotic and communist organzations" apart (Russian Television Network 26 Mar. 1993; ITAR-TASS World Service 27 Mar. 1993). Police did not intervene in at least one instance when there may have been legal grounds to do so. During a demonstration by about 20,000 supporters of "pro-communist" organizations in Moscow, one speaker demanded that Russia's defence minister face the firing squad. "Many" anti-Semitic placards were in evidence as well (Interfax 7 Nov. 1992).

However, some demonstrations have turned violent. Despite efforts to contain a pro-Communist demonstration in Moscow in February 1992, clashes resulted in "minor injuries" (Country Reports 1992 1993, 889). During a large demonstration by "pro-communist and national-patriotic organizations" in Moscow on 23 February, the former head of the Moscow militia was reportedly attacked, even though the militia "did not harass the march" (Interfax 23 Feb. 1993a; Interfax 23 Feb. 1993b).

Another example of violent protest took place when marches in Moscow on 1 May 1993 resulted in major clashes between security forces, including members of OMON and the Moscow militia, and pro-communist anti-Yeltsin demonstrators. About 580 people were injured, at least 200 of whom were security forces members, and 40 were reportedly admitted to hospital, 27 of them "policemen" (Mayak Radio Network 3 May 1993; RFE/RL 21 May 1993b, 20-21). One OMON trooper subsequently died of his injuries (Ostankino Television 5 May 1993). The day following the clashes the Russian prosecutor-general began criminal investigations into the incident based on article 79 of the Russian criminal code, which deals with "mass riots" (ITAR-TASS 2 May 1993). Those thought responsible for the violence were detained but almost all were reportedly released by 5 May (Ibid. 1 May 1993; Komsomolskaya Pravda 5 May 1993).

At the end of 1992 police could still arbitrarily detain suspects and make arrests without warrants, but under amendments approved in May 1992, detainees must be charged or released within 72 hours (Country Reports 1992 1993, 886). The treatment of prisoners at all stages of the judicial process remained "harsh" in 1992. One report states that "many prisoners continue[d] to suffer from mental and physical abuse and mistreatment during interrogation, trial and confinement," and that authorities frequently confined detainees to "unduly harsh punishment cells." Reforms instituted in 1992 stipulate that such confinement can be ordered for a maximum of 60 days per year and no longer than 15 days at one time, but by the end of the year no mechanisms to oversee the practice had been implemented (Ibid.).

A widely reported example of security force behaviour reminiscent of the Soviet era involved the November 1992 arrest of a scientist who published an article about the development and testing of a chemical weapon after President Yeltsin had endorsed agreements to eliminate such arms. MB officials invoked a Soviet law on state secrets and insisted that the accused accept a lawyer appointed by the security ministry (The New York Times 1 Nov. 1992, 4; Interfax 5 Nov. 1992; Post-Soviet Affairs Jan-Mar. 1993, 55). The accused subsequently obtained his release under May 1992 amendments to the Russian criminal code (Country Reports 1992 1993, 886) that provide for the right to judicial review of the grounds for arrest within 72 hours (Rossiskaya Gazeta 17 June 1992; Post-Soviet Affairs Jan-Mar. 1993, 52). According to a report published in early 1993, however, charges had not been dropped and the investigation was still in progress (Country Reports 1992 1993, 888).

4.3      The Issue of Redress

As is the case with human rights generally, the letter of the law with respect to redress may be promising, but implementation of the law is another question. Article 5 of the Law on Federal Organs of State Security states that

any person believing that the federal organs of state security or their officials have violated his rights and freedoms has the right to complain about such violation to a higher federal organ of state security, the procuracy, and the courts (Rossiskaya Gazeta 12 Aug. 1992).

The process of reform in this area is "still incomplete," however, as conservative interests "are attempting to thwart democratic changes in the legal system at every turn" (Post-Soviet Affairs Jan-Mar. 1993, 52; Country Reports 1992 1993, 889). As a result it should be no surprise that the provisions for redress from the organs of state security have also been found lacking in practical value. In particular, the specific mechanisms by which a citizen can exercise his "right to complain" are not clearly spelled out. In theory the aggrieved individual can hire a lawyer and bring the complaint before a judge (Rahr 28 June 1993; Solomon 21 June 1993), but this proves difficult in practice because lawyers are not readily available for this purpose, and few judges are qualified to engage in a genuinely independent review of state actions (Ibid.; Country Reports 1992 1993, 887). Similarly, while the above-mentioned legislation stipulates that citizens who feel they have been wronged by state security agencies have the right to demand compensation, no scheme for punitive damages is outlined (Rossiyskaya Gazeta 12 Aug. 1992, art. 5; Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Mar. 1993, 103). As one western human rights agency has put it, "without clear penalties specified for infringement, the greater opportunity to complain to the court or higher-ranking agencies is likely to have little meaning in practice" (Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Mar. 1993, 103).

The absence of redress is evident with respect to mistreatment of prisoners. In 1992, as in previous years, no security official was punished for using excessive force and victims of abuse were still unable to seek redress (Country Reports 1992 1993, 886).

The question of context is critical as well. As noted above, the reputation for corruption and bureaucratic indifference the police acquired under communism has been compounded in the post-Soviet era by the militia's seeming inability to cope with the exploding rates of crime and social decay. One caller to the above-mentioned phone-in program with Internal Affairs Minister Yerin alleged that the former Moscow chief of police had declared on television that "the protection of citizens against criminals in the streets is a matter for citizens themselves" (Komsomolskaya Pravda 7 Nov. 1992). In such an atmosphere, with corruption reportedly rampant throughout the chain of command, it is unlikely Russian citizens feel the police offer a viable avenue of redress for either criminal or official violations of their rights (Solomon 16 June 1993; RFE/RL 14 May 1993b, 83).

4.4       Oversight of the Security Forces

A resolution adopted by the February 1993 international conference "The KGB: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow," bluntly concluded that attempts since August 1991 to bring the activities of KGB successor organizations "in line with the law [had] failed," and called for the establishment of an "effective mechanism of parliamentary and judicial control over the activity of security services" (ITAR-TASS 21 Feb. 1993). The perceived need for such a resolution, despite existing provisions for parliamentary, executive and judicial oversight of the security services (TASS 21 Feb. 1992; Rossiyskaya Gazeta 27 Feb. 1992; Rossiyskaya Gazeta 12 Aug. 1992, art. 21-24), is further testimony to the difficulty of implementing effective reform in this area. Despite the "impressive" list of controls that exists on paper, some western specialists have concluded that "there is no real parliamentary or judicial oversight over the security forces" in Russia (Lawyers Committee for Human Rights Mar. 1993, 103; Post-Soviet Affairs Jan-Mar. 1993, 61-62). Failure to specify clear mechanisms of control and the absence of a tradition of an independent judiciary are the principal reasons cited for this state of affairs, and ongoing disputes between the federal executive and legislative branches appear to have been a contributing factor (Ibid.; RFE/RL 27 Mar. 1992, 1; Ibid. 14 May 1993a, 75-76). Recent polls suggest that many Russians believe in the need for "a strong state security agency" (RFE/RL 14 May 1993a, 77), a development possibly indicating that real democratic checks on the security forces will be unlikely to emerge soon.


The prospects for enhanced protection of the individual by Russia's security forces are questionable. The formal institutions of one-party rule and state primacy over the individual may have passed from the scene, but the ethos of the old regime continues to permeate contemporary life. Moreover, it is an ethos reinforced by a climate of political uncertainty and social decay that shows few signs of abating in the near future.

The 25 April 1993 nationwide referendum on Yeltsin's leadership failed to decisively resolve the jurisdictional disputes between the legislative and executive organs of federal authority in Moscow (RFE/RL 21 May 1993a, 10). Debate over a new Russian constitution continued, and on 26 June a session of the constitutional conference convened by Yeltsin on 5 June ended with agreement on a single draft that the president felt would soon be submitted to the Supreme Soviet for first reading. Those opposed to Yeltsin remained concerned about the powers granted the president in the latest draft, and some of Russia's republics, particularly Tatarstan, indicated that they wanted still more autonomy under the new constitution (ITAR-TASS 26 June 1993; Reuters 26 June 1993; Time 28 June 1993, 27). The continuing deadlock produced calls for a "temporary constitutional law" and national elections by the end of the year, with some political leaders expecting or favouring such a vote in the fall (Time 28 June 1993, 27; Segodnya 22 June 1993).

The continuing political uncertainty at the centre has fueled centrifugal tendencies in the regions that in turn are hampering the prospects for successful economic and political reform (The New York Review of Books 28 Jan. 1993; RFE/RL 14 May 1993c, 39-40). Criminal activity thrives in such conditions; in the words of the Internal Affairs minister, MVD forecasts for the growth in crime through 1995 are "depressing" and "not reassuring" (Pravda 6 Nov. 1992; Komsomolskaya Pravda 7 Nov. 92). In the meantime, effective reform of the security forces and legal institutions will depend on fundamental changes in public attitudes, and may take "years" (RFE/RL 14 May 1993a, 78; Barikhnovskaya 5 June 1993, 4).


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