Open Season on Cops After Nurgaliyev’s Words?

Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev has been getting it from all sides in recent weeks, particularly since the mercurial Major Alexei Dymovsky took his beef with his bosses to YouTube.

Nurgaliyev, however, may have opened a Pandora's Box two weeks ago after a high school student asked him whether it was OK for citizens “to fight back” if they are attacked by a police officer.

“If that citizen is not a criminal that is being detained, if he did not break the law and he is attacked, then he should defend himself,” Nurgaliyev said.

Hours after Nurgaliyev made the comments, a Tver resident shot two local police officers, killing one and critically injuring the other. It was unclear whether Nurgaliyev’s words supplied a motive in the attack, as the gunman subsequently turned the gun on himself.

In what could be an ominous precedent for police nationwide, however, a Perm man arrested last week for beating up two cops purportedly defended his actions by saying Nurgaliyev “gave the go-ahead to beat up policemen,” the local Perm web site 59.ru reported.

The suspect, 24, came home drunk to his apartment and proceeded to beat up his brother, the regional Investigative Committee said in a statement. The brother called the police, and when they arrived, the suspect — according to the surgically accurate prosecutors’ statement — “did not comply with [the officers’] demands, started a fight and in the presence of others insulted the police officers.”

The drunken assault was slightly more serious that the official statement might indicate: The two officers were hospitalized and subsequently released, Interfax reported.

Local investigator Sergei Katayev told Interfax that the suspect — who has been charged with assaulting an officer and insulting an official — never uttered the words about Nurgaliyev approving such attacks. It does make one wonder, however, whether the esteemed Interior Ministry ought to be more careful with his words, regardless of the heat he’s facing from the intense media focus on his subordinates’ abuses in recent weeks.

As the always-entertaining Anton Orekh over at Ekho Moskvy noted in a recent commentary, “First drunk policemen started to shoot and beat up citizens, and now it’s the drunk citizens’ turn to beat up policemen.”