Police don’t draw divisions between foreigners and Russian citizens - police chief

­Russia's police are to undergo a major shake-up following continuous accusations of corruption and abuse of power. Moscow Police Chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev talks about the reforms and action against growing extremism and intolerance.

RT: Recalling the recent clashes at Manezhnaya Square in Moscow, what measures should be taken to stop the rising extremism and intolerance?

Vladimir Kolokoltsev: There is no universal measure. We need a set of measures to improve the current situation. We need to find an overall solution involving firstly, family and secondly, school and other educational institutions to foster tolerance towards other nationalities. At the same time, the law enforcement system should not lay down obligations, so that the reaction of the law enforcement agencies to any kind of wrongful acts committed by people from other regions and nationalities will be equal to the deeds and misdeeds.

Talking about the state of crime, officials often refer to illegal migrants and non-residents. Is this kind of crime a big problem for the city?

VK: There is such a problem. But in the past year we managed to stabilize the situation. Frankly speaking, every year the number of crimes committed by people from other cities grew. In 2010 we managed to stop the growth, but nonetheless the number is huge: almost half of crimes in Moscow are committed by non-residents. This figure implies crimes by foreigners from CIS states and other countries, and by Russians coming to Moscow from other cities.

I ask this question, because amid the period of growth in a number of crimes, some newspapers report that up to 70% of wrongful acts are committed by visitors to the city. And they do not specify how many of them are from CIS states, or say, from the Moscow region or from regions other than the Caucasus. Do you think this fact may provoke more hatred and aggression?

VK: We take into consideration the circumstances in the city when evaluating its criminal situation: of course we consider the statistics. The thing is that dealing with gangs consisting of people from other regions requires more effort on our part. For example an informational break-in into a criminal gang formed on an ethnic hatred basis is very complicated. So we say that half of crimes are committed by non-residents, but that’s just reported ones. But since we know there are many unreported crimes, we realize that the real number is higher. But anyway, we act taking into account this kind of criminal activity.

RT: Media around the world recently quoted your opinion on the necessity to tighten civil liberties, particularly in regard to registering Moscow’s visitors. What exactly did you mean?

VK: I do not support hardening responsibility. I back the idea of registration to be preserved along the existing rules of notification requirement. I’m speaking about the procedure we have now: every Moscow visitor when arriving in the city, has to be registered. This procedure is very democratic and is to be preserved. But if this democratic notification procedure is violated, the punishment should be significantly higher. That’s my idea.

RT: Many people from non-CIS countries may ask you, why you need this measure. In many cities there is no such procedure.

VK: Our situation is different due to the fact that our southern borders with the former Soviet states including the CIS member states’ borders are easy to cross. The existing situation in the southern regions of the former USSR, dictate a necessity to introduce measures like registering newcomers. Transit routes for drug trafficking to Europe come through Russia too. That is why the registration procedure provides for order in European countries also. And in my opinion we are doing everything right in this regard.

RT: How safe is it now for foreigners to stay in the territory of the Russian Federation?

The number of crimes committed against foreign nationals from nearby countries, mainly the CIS states, dropped by 25% last year while crimes against foreigners from far-away countries has dropped by 15%. This is showing a stable trend towards a stabilization of the crime situation in Moscow and makes it possible to draw long-term conclusions.

RT: Do citizens from Western countries, further away, turn to police for help? Most foreigners speak English or French. How do they communicate with your officers?

VK: We don’t have any problems in communicating with foreign nationals. Interpreters help us to do that. We don’t have a shortage of this in Moscow. But generally, we don’t draw any divisions between foreigners and Russian citizens.  Police treat foreigners the same as they do Russian nationals.

RT: A lot is being said about modernization. This, in fact, is President Medvedev’s goal. The president has recently suggested renaming the militia force as the police force. What do you think about that? Why do it? What’s going to change except for the name?

VK: My attitude to this initiative is normal. I think that there’s some concrete meaning behind this renaming. It means transition to new standards of service and new standards of attitude to people. A new model of relationship between law enforcement bodies and citizens runs like a golden thread through this draft law. In my view, it’s a transition from the dominant model that has existed all these years to a model of partnership and respect by citizens. This draft law, which is going to come into force, lays down a totally different content and standard.

RT: How long will it take to carry out this reorganization? It’s not an easy task. There are many law enforcers who just cannot reorganize overnight.

VK: Some deadlines have certainly been set to allow law enforcers to adapt to new service conditions. But I don’t think that this adaptation period is going to last for too long after the bill comes into effect. We plan to get down to working under new conditions from March 1.

RT: You’ve recently announced plans to cut the number of law enforcers in Moscow by 12%.  Will you be able to provide security in the capital under these new circumstances? Do you think that the state of security will be better?  

VK: Even last year’s figures show that we are in a position to provide that security. Several categories of violent crimes are in decline. For example, the number of armed assaults has dropped by 23% or almost a quarter.  

RT: Is that in one year?

VK: Yes, in one year. Other crimes include robberies and other offences. The current staff cuts have in no way affected the services which are directly responsible for maintaining public order and fighting crime. The operative services, criminal investigation and investigative bodies have seen no cuts. They have the same number of staff as they used to have. The job cuts have largely affected the services that don’t deal directly with operative work and with fighting crime.

RT: The Western media has written a lot about the spoilt image and reputation of Moscow’s militia after a series of scandals and cases of power abuse. What measures are you going to take to eradicate corruption?

VK: It’s stricter discipline, the introduction of personal responsibility of bosses for the actions of their subordinates and a comprehensive approach to restoring law and order in our own ranks. I will once again refer to 2010. We managed to cut the number of officers facing criminal charges by 1.5 times. The measures we’ve started introducing on a daily basis have proven to be effective. We’ve increased the responsibility of our employees and have set higher standards, and that has produced results.