Thursday, April 9, 2009

Window on Eurasia: Russia’s South Not as Crime-Ridden as Some Other Parts of the Country, Justice Ministry Says

Paul Goble

Vienna, April 9 – Many Russians believe that their country’s Southern Federal District, which includes the North Caucasus and adjoining regions, is the most crime-ridden section of the country, but in fact, a senior interior ministry official says, crime is actually higher in many of the other federal districts.
In an interview published in “Argumenty nedeli” today, Arkady Yedelev, Russia’s deputy interior minister, says reports that in 2008, the Southern Federal District ranked fifth among seven in terms of the number of crimes registered with the authorities and third in terms of the number of the most severe ones (
According to the Moscow official, the total number of crimes in the Southern district last year was 334,780, a figure 8.5 percent lower than the year before. The most serious crimes were down by 9.4 percent, and the percentage solved had gone up, although he did not provide a figure for that.
Given that these are the figures registered with the authorities rather than the total number of violations of the law, many Russians will not be encouraged. On the one hand, this pattern suggests that other regions are doing relatively worse, meaning that crime which many Russians link to “people from the Caucasus” is coming home.
And on the other, Yedelev said that “a particular feature” of the crime scene in the Southern Federal district is the growing number of crimes “committed by members of organized criminal groups. In Ingushetia, for example, he said that more than 70 percent of the attacks on law enforcement officers and siloviki were committed by such people.
While the situation has “stabilized” in Chechnya, the deputy interior minister said, illegal bands are increasingly active not only in Ingushetia but in Daghestan, Kabardino-Balkaria and Adygeya, all of which had been relatively more peaceful than Chechnya until the last year or two.
Yedelev expressed confidence that the interior ministry had “sufficient” resources to maintain control of the situation, but he acknowledged that “crimes of a terrorist character and of an extremist direction exert a significant influence on the formation of the operational situation on the territory of the Southern Federal District.”
Indeed, he said, crimes of this kind “create direct threats to the security of Russia.”
Some of these crimes Yedelev blamed on the actions of foreign powers, “above all of the United States,” which he said were seeking to expand their influence in the region by limiting that of Moscow. And he pointed to Georgia’s Pankisi Gorge as a source of problems given Tbilisi’s inability to control the situation there.
In other comments, the deputy minister said that the composition of the organs of internal affairs in the region is “multi-national,” with “the nationality of a candidate in general not being the defining factor of his being selected for service.” And he said that his ministry has long worked with non-Russian groups and with local religious communities.
Yedelev added, however, that the Russian interior ministry has especially close ties with the Cossacks in the Southern Federal District, and he praised the Kuban Cossacks for their role in the interdiction of drug trafficking and the maintenance of public order, including restricting illegal immigration.
The deputy minister further insisted that “the Chechen Republic has become part of [Russia’s] Constitutional field,” with “conditions having been created for its peaceful development as a full subject of the Russian Federation.” And he said that he could promise Russians that “criminals” will not be able to block the Sochi Olympics.
Many non-Russians in the region will find Yedelev’s assertions about Moscow’s reliance on the Caucasus or Chechnya being part of the Russian legal field disturbing, and many Russians will see his comments about Chechnya and the prospects for the Olympics as anything but reassuring. Indeed, both are likely to conclude that Yedelev’s comments point to trouble ahead.

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