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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Freedoms Hinder Police, Chief Says

Emphasis on individual rights is making it harder for police to fight crime, Viktor Yerin, the interior minister, said Thursday.

For example, prosecutors lose a great deal of time trying to provide defendants with the right to a lawyer -- time they could be using to gather evidence in the case, Yerin said.

"Yes, we made laws guaranteeing the right to a lawyer", Yerin told a press conference at the Interior Ministry's headquarters. "But we forgot that in Russia we don't have enough lawyers".

Respect for human rights also keeps police from removing hundreds of thousands of homeless people from train stations, underpasses and else-where, he said.

"Normally, they would be removed from the street, but under the rights of man we can't do it", he said.

Complaints about curtailed power are already common from both the Interior Ministry and the former KGB, both organs which once operated with few legal restrictions while the Soviet Union existed.

As crime has steadily worsened since the fall of communism, both bodies have stepped up campaigns to regain some of their old powers.

In his remarks before a packed room of reporters and Interior Ministry officials, Yerin warned that a weakened police structure could permit the spread of strong organized crime structures into every region of Russia.

"When mafia structures become more and more active, they impact the political process, the legislation process, and all spheres of society", he said.

President Boris Yeltsin echoed these sentiments during a Kremlin meeting on crime last weekend. He said that as much as 40 percent of new businessmen in Russia had criminal ties.

One indication of the "criminal aggression" directed against Russian society was the steep increase in violent encounters between police and criminals, Yerin said. In 1992, police reported 2, 232 violent encounters with criminals, compared to 1, 361 in 1989.

Last year these incidents caused 318 police deaths, the minister said.

Only strong, decisive action from the Interior Ministry, coordinated with other branches of government, can bring the crime wave to a halt, Yerin said.