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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Urges Crime Battle

President Boris Yeltsin on Friday urged Russia's top policemen to step up the fight against crime and pledged increased funding to the police force.


Speaking to the Interior Ministry collegium in his first public appearance in 10 days, Yeltsin described rampant crime as "a threat to national security" and said he had this month ordered the government to immediately repay its debt of 300 billion rubles ($68 million) to the police force.


The address came even as the newly appointed interior minister, Anatoly Kulikov, is launching a cleanup campaign in the force, trying to rid it of corrupt officers and to force it to solve more crimes. While Yeltsin offered little in the way of specific instructions on how to make the police work more efficiently, the president stressed that the force's top priority is to make life safer for ordinary citizens, curbing street violence.


In all, Yeltsin listed six priorities for the police leadership. They included improving investigative work, preventing crimes against minors, fighting organized crime, curbing the growth of economic and financial crime and stopping illegal arms trade.


Kulikov's recent attacks on police corruption centered around a ministry-administered bribery test that showed traffic police at 22 of the 24 posts checked were on the take. Yeltsin, too, made an explicit reference to police corruption: "Frequently police themselves become a source of law violations." He urged Interior Ministry officials to subject new recruits to more rigorous moral-testing standards.


The president spoke vehemently of a recent string of contract killings targeting well-known public figures and businessmen. The killings have severely undermined Yeltsin's popularity and opened the way for accusations from the opposition that the government is unable to check criminal activity.


"Prove to me at last that you can solve not just the obvious crimes but also the carefully thought-out, well-organized ones," Yeltsin told the Interior Ministry leaders. "I mean especially those crimes that have resounded throughout the nation -- the contract killings of bankers, entrepreneurs, journalists and politicians."


Yeltsin's renewed promise to get tough on crime followed the murder of banker Ivan Kivelidi, who headed an influential lobby group of Russian entrepreneurs.


As early as June, 1994, Yeltsin signed an anti-organized-crime decree giving police more freedom to detain and search suspects. The decree was roundly criticized by liberals but did little to ease the crime situation.


In March, the murder of star TV journalist Vladislav Listyev prompted Yeltsin to make an impassioned speech blasting police for inefficiency and vowing to clamp down on organized crime, but no immediate moves to improve the Russian law-enforcement system were made. It took the Budyonnovsk crisis, in which a group of armed Chechen fighters took 2,000 Russian hostages in that southern town, for Yeltsin to fire Interior Minister Viktor Yerin and to seek to strengthen the police force.


The president said Friday that the force should be "reorganized" and made more "mobile and strong, capable of confronting modern crime." To that end, Yeltsin said it was necessary to increase the number of patrolmen and detectives.