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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Top Cop Plans to Clean Up Interior Ministry

Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin said Wednesday he will fire "quite a lot" of high-ranking policemen, including his own deputy, Vladimir Durbazhev who has been reportedly linked to massive embezzlements of state funds.

"You will learn [about the reshuffles] after the May holidays. ... There will be quite a lot of them," Stepashin said after taking calls from readers at Komsomolskaya Pravda daily's editorial offices.

Stepashin mentioned Durbazhev and chief of the ministry's correction and punishment directorate, Vyacheslav Ovchinnikov, among those to be fired, but refused to release any other names.

Stepashin also spoke of pending changes at the ministry's inner security directorate, which is in charge of exposing crooked policemen.

The directorate's present chief, Svyatoslav Golitsyn, has been vacationing for two weeks and doesn't plan to return to his desk until July, in what an aide of his said was a clear sign of the pending dismissal.

Stepashin was appointed Russia's acting interior minister last month after his predecessor, Anatoly Kulikov, was fired by President Boris Yeltsin, who was reportedly angered by evidence of corruption by top brass in the ministry. Stepashin was confirmed as a full-fledged minister Tuesday.

The newly appointed police chief refused to comment on the progress of an ongoing investigation into the alleged embezzlement of 350 billion undenominated rubles ($57.4 million) by high-ranking officers of his ministry.

Kommersant Daily said this hefty sum was to have been transferred from the Nizhnevartovskneftegaz oil and gas company to the ministry's correction and punishment directorate.

The money vanished, however, before reaching Ovchinnikov's directorate.

The daily also said that Durbazhev, former commander of Interior Ministry troops Anatoly Shkirko and his deputy Pyotr Rovensky have been questioned by military prosecutors, but so far no charges have been filed.

In a separate case, currently probed by military prosecutors, Nizhnevartovskneftegaz was to have provided fuel for the Interior Ministry troops. The contract was signed by Rovensky in 1996 and approved by Durbazhev, who was then deputy commander of the troops, but remains unfulfilled.

Izvestia said Durbazhev may have been involved in an alleged misappropriation of state funds allocated to buy back arms from Chechen separatists.

The daily said Wednesday that the federal government set aside a total of 8.512 billion rubles in November 1994.

Rather than use it for buying weaponry and paying ransoms for Russian POWs in Chechnya, the command of the Interior Ministry troops left 7.12 billion rubles at commercial bank Transkredit for 20 months, the daily said.

Izvestia said Durbazhev and another deputy commander of Interior Ministry troops, Viktor Gafarov, had 200 rubles and 119 million rubles deposited, respectively, into their personal accounts at this bank. Both were paid a whopping 400 percent interest rate, the daily said.

Izvestia said the misappropriation was exposed last April by the Federal Auditing Chamber, which in its turn notified the Military Prosecutor's Office.

Reached by telephone Wednesday, the command of the Interior Ministry troops refused to comment on alleged embezzlements and pending reshuffles.

In addition to announcing the pending personnel reshuffles, Stepashin said Wednesday that he will restructure his agency to focus on grave crimes while paying less attention to petty offenses.

He said local police units will no longer have to rig statistics trumpeting an unlikely solvency rate of more than 80 percent in order to get more bonuses.

Their efficiency will be judged with the help of opinion polls to be regularly conducted throughout Russian regions, Stepashin said. He also promised a pay raise for his subordinates, the lowest in rank of whom are presently paid as little as $70 per month, next fall.