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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Most Muscovites Sorry to See Curfew End

The state of emergency in Moscow was lifted Monday, but police prepared to maintain a crackdown on crime amid overwhelming popular support for tough action.


With crime sharply down since the emergency regime went into affect during the armed uprising at the White House two weeks ago, the overnight curfew in Moscow was lifted Monday at 5 A. M.


But a poll of Muscovites published in Izvestia indicated that the vast majority wanted the security forces to continue the crackdown they began on Oct. 4. The crackdown has resulted in many nationals from the Caucasus and Central Asia being cleared out of town under tightened enforcement of residency regulations.


Police said Monday that crime in Moscow had dropped by more than 40 percent during the state of emergency.


From Oct. 4 to 18, a total of 1, 835 criminal offenses were reported, compared to 3, 270 in the first two weeks of September, according to city police records.


To continue their crackdown on crime, the authorities have decided to keep about 600 patrols of Interior Ministry troops on duty in Moscow for the moment, a police spokesman, Vladimir Zolotnitsky, said. When the curfew was in force, such patrols normally consisted of four to five men.


The troops will not enjoy any extra powers, and the Interior Ministry will decide Tuesday on the duration of their stay in the capital, Zolotnitsky said.


"We need to keep the situation in the city under strict control", said Vitaly Kiiko, a spokesman for the OMON Interior Ministry troops. "The situation is far from normal. With all the weapons handed out at the White House around, I expect a sharp rise in violent crime".


Kiiko said that identity checks to determine people's right to reside in Moscow would continue at hotels, markets, train stations, airports and other public places. During the state of emergency, about 7, 500 people who failed to produce Moscow residency permits, mainly Caucasus nationals, were deported from Moscow. The Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian embassies in Moscow protested what they denounced as unjustified deportations and violations of human rights, and thousands of Caucasus nationals fled for fear of the crackdown.


In addition, 54, 152 people were detained for what police called "administrative offenses" and 35, 099 for breaking the curfew, Reuters reported, quoting a security spokesman.


Lev Khaldeyev, rector of the Russian Legal Institute, commented that the drop in crime was mainly due to the fact that criminals had kept a low profile during the state of emergency.


"Criminals have been avoiding their usual places during the state of emergency", Khaldeyev said. "Maybe not within one day, but crime is certain to increase again now. Drug dealers have not burned their drugs, they are simply waiting for the police to ease up".


He added that a lower crime rate did not justify stricter security measures in Moscow because such measures infringed on civil liberties.


"The state must handle crime without violating my rights", Khaldeyev said. "Tight security is understandable when there is shooting in the street, but not when there isn't".


A majority of Muscovites, however, do not share this opinion, according to the survey conducted for Izvestia.


Under the banner headline "Longing for a Firm Hand? " the poll indicated 75 percent of Muscovites support strict state-of-emergency regulations, with 16 percent against and 9 percent undecided.


Yury Levada, director of the All-Russian Research Center on Public Opinion, which conducted the survey of 1, 720 Muscovites on Oct. 12, said that the results did not surprise him.


"Unfortunately", he said, "research has shown that the majority of people believe that the state of emergency benefits them, even though it actually helps them very little".


In a telephone interview, Levada said that after the storming of the White House, there was "a strong mass feeling" that it had been necessary, with 70 percent approving of the military strike.


He said this was a very rare show of public agreement on a single issue, and that such mass consensus is usual only in times of war.


According to Levada, the survey showed little division in opinion between young and old, or between the intelligentsia and the uneducated.


He said the majority wanted to keep the propiska system of residency permits, adding that this slant of public opinion had not developed overnight.


"It is obvious that people's opinions are not formed by decrees", Levada wrote in Izvestia.


"Without doubt, there exists a powerful, unarticulated desire for some sort of order" as a reaction to the chaos of the last few months, he said.


"Russians want democracy", Levada told The Moscow Times, "but it seems they want their own kind of authoritarian democracy".