Return of the KGB? Newspaper predicts major power ministry reforms in Russia

Russian Rapid response task force. © Alexei Danichev
The Russian authorities are planning to implement major reforms to law enforcement agencies, merging the federal security, federal bodyguard and foreign intelligence services into a structure similar to the Soviet-era KGB, a business daily reports.

Quoting multiple unnamed sources, the Kommersant newspaper wrote that the reforms are scheduled for the nearest future and will be completed before the presidential elections of 2018.

The planned result is the creation of the Ministry for State Security, or MGB – the agency uniting the currently independent Federal Security Committee (FSB), Federal Bodyguard Service (FSO) and Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).

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In addition, the authors of the plan aim to merge the Prosecutor General’s Office with the federal agency for especially important criminal cases – the Investigative Committee – and dissolve the Ministry for Emergency Situations, splitting its tasks between the Defense Ministry and the Interior Ministry.

The major objectives behind the planned overhaul are stated as improving the effectiveness of state management and measures to counter corruption.

The sources also said that the preparatory stages of the new reforms started in April this year with the creation of the National Guard agency, and dissolution of the Federal Migration Service and the Federal Drug Control Service with transition of their functions to the Interior Ministry.

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The new State Security Ministry will also receive powers of procedural control of all criminal investigations and the functions of internal affairs departments of all power agencies.

Kommersant’s sources added that once the reforms are completed, the current heads of Russian law enforcement agencies would be replaced, but allowed that some of them – such as the head of the Investigation Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin – will be offered “honorary posts without any real influence.”

The newspaper said that all the structures mentioned in the article had declined to comment, but that it had received some off the record statements confirming that the plan existed.

Vladimir Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters on Monday that he could not immediately comment on the Kommersant report.

News of the alleged reforms comes after a series of corruption scandals that hit several Russian law enforcement agencies over the past few months. In July several officers of the Investigation Committee, including the head and deputy head of the agency’s internal affairs department, were detained over suspected bribery and power abuse. In September the Federal Security Service detained the deputy head of the Interior Ministry’s department for economic security on suspicion of receiving a large bribe. When FSB agents searched an apartment belonging to the man’s stepsister, they found over US$120 million in cash.

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