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Excerpts from transcript of meeting with the Interior Ministry’s senior officers

October 22, 2011

President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Comrades, colleagues,

I will start with the good news. Be advised I have signed the Executive Order On the Russian Federation Internal Affairs Agencies Worker's Day. Given the traditions we have in our country, it will be celebrated yearly on the same day as before, on November 10. I expect you will celebrate the first holiday in the new format with new results in your service, as well as good moods.

Today, we will address the problems we’ve dealt with in recent years. Much has been done in the last two years, and this is not just a merely pleasing comment; as I said yesterday, during my videoconference, the Ministry of the Interior is really changing. We have already formed a fundamentally new legal framework for the police officers which was not easy as it was taking into account the results of broad public debate, but ultimately, we do have the new laws. I am not saying they are ideal, because there are no ideal laws, but in any case, in my view it is more or less solid and can be improved as the situation develops.

In addition to shaping a new legislative foundation, we are also working on another highly important issue: we are striving to offer decent working conditions for Ministry officers. By creating such conditions, we are increasing the prestige of serving within internal affairs agencies.

”In addition to shaping a new legislative foundation, we are striving to offer decent working conditions for Ministry officers. By creating such conditions, we are increasing the prestige of serving within internal affairs agencies.“

Moreover, the mechanisms of communication between police and the public are now better tuned, advanced and based on partnership. The so-called public councils, which were created under the Ministry and its territorial agencies in line with my Executive Order of May 23, 2011, are particularly significant in this domain.

I would like to specifically note that this year, we have passed the Law On Social Guarantees for Employees of the Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation. The state is fully fulfilling its obligation to offer adequate employment benefits. I would like to personally tell you about it, because sometimes, people speculate that we, the government, will make cuts here or there, or take something away from people – Ministry of the Interior or Defence Ministry employees. That will not happen. If somebody thinks that this is wrong, they should work elsewhere. In any case, that is my position, and I am certain that the government will continue to maintain this position. In order to guarantee these benefits, the Ministry of the Interior budget for 2012 is increased more than two-fold. This is an unprecedented increase, to 1.103 trillion rubles ($36 billion).

* * *

The Ministry’s organisational structure has undergone some serious changes, which is another topic that we have discussed extensively. Step by step, the internal affairs agencies are getting rid of non-relevant functions. Decisions on this matter have been made and must be carried out.

Nevertheless, I would like you to tell me about how things are going at the local level, as well as your cooperation with your colleagues from the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Investigative Committee, the courts, and other law enforcement agencies. I understand that you have already gained a certain amount of experience at this point, as well as a certain view of the new organisational structure. Much like legislation, the structure is not set in stone. And naturally, if we feel at some point that it is not operational in some areas, in can be adjusted, with the understanding that the general contours of this structure must function and remain effective for a reasonable time, until we think the time has come to make other decisions. Thus, I would like to hear your suggestions on further improving various subdivisions, on structuring the Ministry of the Interior system in general and various agencies within it.

A very important priority for police work is protecting the safety, rights, and legal interests of our citizens. We must not only be aware of society’s most sensitive problems, but also try to react to them swiftly. There are many problems; it is enough to just look around. They are very complicated. Let me remind you that the Housing and Utilities management situation is truly quite complex. In addition to worn out infrastructure and facilities, as well as insufficient investments, we have problems that are entirely criminal. Due to large-scale embezzlement and unlawful use of funds, Housing and Utilities are simply not receiving the necessary resources for development. Naturally, this situation is true not just in Tver but in many places. But I would like to note that in the first nine months of this year, there have been 72 crimes investigated that relate to Housing and Utilities sector , whereas last year, according to the figures, there were none. Granted, we understand that this is impossible. This means that these crimes are a greater danger to society, and investigations of these crimes must be carried out fully. We must not only punish the perpetrators, but also help monitor the lawful allocation and spending of budgetary resources. This also concerns all economic modernisation projects, and other areas. Overall, the fight against corruption remains one of the Ministry’s central concerns.

Another topic pertaining to Ministry reforms is bolstering personnel, people’s fates, and certification results. As a result of a general special certification, we have formed a police force that encompasses 875 thousand Ministry of the Interior officers. More than 12 thousand did not pass the test and are subject to dismissal. 226 thousand positions have been eliminated, affecting one out of five employees. Of course, we are not going to eliminate anything else, at least not in the near future; as this reduction was necessary and sufficient. Still, we must not forget about our comrades who have lost their jobs because of reorganisation, so it is imperative to work on employing the individuals whose jobs have been eliminated. I am instructing the heads of Ministry of the Interior’s regional departments to personally take charge of job assistance for people who did not pass their performance reviews – with the exception of those who are being investigated, of course. We must do everything to ensure that everyone capable of working finds a job. This is not just a Ministry challenge; it is also up to the executive authorities in the corresponding regions. In any case, it would be wrong to forget about your comrades.

We also should develop the professional training system for police officers and consider ways to increase the efficiency of talent pool employment at all levels. We must understand how issues occur with regard to rotation – the replacement of senior officers – since there are problems in this area as well.

True, we will also have to dismiss individuals who have compromised themselves, people who simply do not want to serve, cannot serve, or are lazy or incompetent. But we cannot go too far in this, either. We must maintain the professional potential of the Ministry of the Interior that has been created and refined as a result of reforms.

Incidentally, I would like to note that after a 20 percent cut in Ministry personnel, contrary to what various sceptics and amateur analysts were saying, there has not been any spike in crime. This is a matter of work efficiency. As for our success in combatting the main crimes – violence, corruption, and organised crime – these serve as indicators used to judge the efficacy of our system.

”A very important priority for police work is protecting the safety, rights, and legal interests of our citizens. We must not only be aware of society’s most sensitive problems, but also try to react to them swiftly.“

One of our priority activities is countering extremism. Unfortunately, the number of incidents involving disturbances of the peace or violence on ethnic grounds is not going down, and in some places, is actually growing. At the end of last year, coordination conferences were launched to monitor law and order in the regions. I would like to remind you that I set them specifically at the governors’ requests, who asked me to give them some legal frameworks to discuss a variety of issues with heads of the Main Departments of the Interior and other law enforcement agencies in order to design measures to counter crimes and bring about order. In some places, these conferences are performing very well, but this is not the case everywhere. I would like to you to tell me about the additional measures you feel are necessary in this area, in order for this work to be more successful. However, there should not be any direct interference by regional authorities into the functions of the police, since our Interior Ministry is an independent federal agency subordinated to the President.

Another important issue is improving legislation. I discussed this matter with Ministry staff many times – both employees and senior officials. Clearly, the range of regulations applied by police officers, Ministry of the Interior employees, is quite significant, ranging from the Criminal Code to regional legislation, including administrative laws.

Since the Criminal Procedure Code came into effect, 89 federal laws have been passed to amend its contents. I know that this involves some problems, and Ministry staff have told me about it. I know that you had suggestions on simplifying and optimising legal procedures stemming from the Criminal Procedure Code. I believe it is time to complete this work, and I have already given instructions to the Ministry of the Interior, together with colleagues from the Prosecutor General’s Office, the FSB, and the Investigative Committee, as well as the Presidential Executive Office, to prepare suggestions. Here, we really need to optimise legal procedures, so that the Ministry of the Interior can carry out its work more efficiently.

Information technologies are a very important topic. We are creating a single information and telecommunications base, and all the subdivisions – absolutely all of them, without exception – must be equipped with basic instruments. On the other hand, new programmes, new hardware, and new equipment will not be implemented at the same rate in all places, even though they offer enormous opportunities. I just took a look at how a car equipped with various devices can function, including checking driver’s license data and several other types of data. This is an entirely new century! And we need to do everything so that this system works not only in large district police departments, but everywhere else as well, so that it’s in every police department and in just about every police car. I think this should be our goal. Yes, it requires expenditures, but I am certain that they will pay for themselves, in part through better crime detection, as well as opportunities to fight corruption and ensure more transparent police behaviour in the event of any conflicts with people subject to administrative liability.

* * *

Overall, I would like to note that some significant steps have been taken in reforming the Ministry of the Interior, but these are just the first steps. A great deal of work still lies ahead, including work on generally improving the atmosphere at the Ministry, optimising its structure and resolving all the main tasks entrusted to the Ministry.

* * *

I said recently that we need to set up new and effective channels for communicating with civil society, and I also proposed the idea of the ‘extended government’ that could include the various forces ready to work together with the state authorities. I am referring here to forces ready to take part in constructive work. It would be good of course to broaden these forces by getting a wide range of different people involved.

”We must maintain the professional potential of the Ministry of the Interior that has been created and refined as a result of reforms.“

On the subject of feedback, I want to mention one issue that is vital for the Interior Ministry’s work and that, along with reform in the ministry, is one of the issues at the forefront of our attention. I am referring to the problem of confidence in the police and all the talk about the system’s degradation.

It has become the fashion over the last years to criticise the ministry. Everyone is doing it, from the bosses, which is probably normal enough, to the people in the streets, which is no doubt also quite normal. Anyone who says something positive about the police and the difficult job they do gets looked at as if they’re either lying or crazy. In some cases this attitude is perhaps justified, but as a general line it is completely inadmissible. You are at the head of big teams and you know yourselves that the vast majority of people in the Interior Ministry are perfectly normal and decent individuals with their own qualities and shortcomings, of course, just like all of us. There are professionals who have been in the job for many a year now and, frankly speaking, have often never earned very much for it. Next year we will raise wages. Wages are still not high by Moscow’s standards, but in the regions they will reach a perfectly decent level, especially for people who have already been in the service a while. 

Of course society must demand the highest standards of the Interior Ministry and police force. This is absolutely normal and is the way things are throughout the world. But at the same time, we have to realise that the people who work for the Ministry of the Interior are professional police officers who protect the public’s peace and safety and look after them in all sorts of different situations, protecting them from day-to-day crime, and protecting them too at the risk of their lives in hotspots. You all know that, sadly, the extent of crime in our country and the problems with terrorism in the North Caucasus and other regions means that this risk is very real. Last year, in any case, the number of police officers killed ran into the hundreds – more than 400 were killed in 2010, and this year has also seen many deaths. And so I would like to see a responsible two-way dialogue between the Interior Ministry officers, who need to give people the right perception and live up to the expectations people have of them, and also the general public and the state and regional authorities, who are to show a responsible attitude too.

The Interior Ministry’s development is a two-way street. I do not regret at all starting this work, because we really did need to give the ministry a cleanout in order to make it more effective and set it on a better track for the future. But at the same time, we must ensure the necessary level of respect for our police officers, the level of respect that exists in most modern countries today. I stress that this is the task not just of the Ministry of the Interior, but of the whole of society. 

* * *

”We have a very important period up ahead, or rather already begun, with first the State Duma and then the presidential election. I call on you to ensure this methodical, meticulous, sometimes unpleasant, but very essential work to maintain public law and order during the election period.“

Extremism is a very complex issue, a problem not typical for our country, say, 20–25 years ago perhaps, but unfortunately, it has become widespread over recent years. We are not alone in facing this problem of course. Other countries also face this very serious issue. Overall, I support the proposals that were made, in order to at least start properly discussing these matters. This extends to the regional conferences working on these matters (you cannot fight extremism alone after all, for it is the task of the regional governors, the presidential plenipotentiary envoys, and the other law enforcement agencies too). These regional conferences that the regional governors oversee must tackle specific issues and address specific problems. I agree completely with this. I set up these conferences precisely with the aim of having you put the issues to and discuss the problems with the regional governors, and so that the governors in their turn can also raise these issues with you. The goal was to ensure an uninterrupted flow of information between the local police on the one hand and the governor on the other. Examine specific matters and demand that preparations be made on them. This is absolutely normal. These are working bodies after all, and not the place for examining concepts for fighting crime in one particular region. It is not concepts that people need right now.

One subject that has long been awaiting a decision is the legal status of citizens who help to keep public order. All of our older people remember the citizen volunteer groups who used to help keep public order. We have not yet created a final legal framework for this work, but this is something we must do. We are to do this, first, because these kinds of groups exist in one form or another all around the world in big countries with various problems, and we are one such country. We are the biggest country in terms of territory, and we have many problems and, unfortunately, will likely to do so for a long time yet to come. In short, we should define this legal status. I am not ready right here and now to outline the main approaches to take on this question: what participation in these voluntary groups will give, what guarantees volunteers will have, what exactly their status will be. To be honest, I do not actually recall if our laws contain anything like the provision in the Soviet Criminal Code of 1964, which gave members of these voluntary citizens’ groups the same status as police officers. We don’t have such a provision now, isn’t that right?

* * *

We have a very important period up ahead, or rather already begun, with first the State Duma and then the presidential election. This is an important time for any country, and all the more so for as complex a country as the Russian Federation. This is always, if not a turbulent time, then at least a period that brings us some extra challenges. 

I call on you in this case not as one of the participants in the campaign process, but as the President of the Russian Federation, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, and guarantor of the Constitution. I want the actions of our police and Interior Ministry over this time, as at any other time of course, to be fully and completely based on the law. There will without doubt be attempts to provoke you, as is the case every day. Much depends on the maturity, restraint, and personal qualities of our Interior Ministry personnel. I am sure that these political events will take place in normal fashion, to a high standard, and the parties will obtain their results fully in keeping with the law. I call on you to ensure this methodical, meticulous, sometimes unpleasant, but very essential work to maintain public law and order during the election period and I wish you all success in this work.

As far as instructions go, the things we discussed today will be drawn up as a set of instructions on which I will soon make a final decision. I wish you all the best.

October 22, 2011