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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Crack Street Patrol Troops Get Muted Condemnation

A government plan to have Interior Ministry troops patrol Moscow's streets met with only a murmur of protest from human rights advocates, as few Russians appear to care about human rights when their city is engulfed by crime.

Police spokesmen said Thursday that the Interior Ministry is lending out 600 crack troops to reinforce the Moscow police. Under joint command of the Interior Ministry and city police, the troops will be patrolling Moscow's airports, train stations and crime-riddled parts of town for an indefinite period of time, a spokesman said, declining to say when they would start.

Fernand Dhondt, a representative of the German-based International Society for Human Rights, said the move highlighted "a trend that the army is making a comeback, leaving civilian authorities with less and less control."

Dhondt added that the use of troops would only boost police violence in the city, already on the rise because police have interpreted a presidential anti-crime decree, signed in June, as a carte blanche.

"It's common practice," Dhondt said, adding: "They act without any formality. They beat up even the elderly."

But Gleb Yakunin, a parliament deputy who in early 1991 joined protests against similar plans to use Interior Ministry troops in the city, said, "If it's part of the fight against crime it is fully acceptable."

Yeltsin's press secretary, Anatoly Krasikov, said there was a risk that the troops could abuse their newfound powers but added that "Someone has to battle crime. It won't disappear on its own."