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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bank Rewards Top Cops With Pagers

ST. PETERSBURG -- Balt-Uneximbank has started giving money to the city's most outstanding police officers and has promised more than $150,000 worth of new pagers by the end of the year.

The bank awarded 12 policemen - recommended by the police's personnel department - between $200 and $410 each last month for their good service, police said last week. The same day the bank announced that before the end of the year it will spend more than $150,000 to finance the purchase of more than 2,000 pagers for beat cops.

Although the bank argues that by financially supporting the police it is doing its "civic duty," analysts warn such charitable activities by Balt-Uneximbank - which financed the lion's share of St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev's election campaign - may be an attempt by the governor to pressure law enforcement officials.

Balt-Uneximbank officials say the contributions are part of a PR campaign to go along with an anti-crime program conducted by City Hall and the police, which has yet to be signed into force by the governor. While the bank is giving the monetary awards directly to the officers, the money for the pagers will be transferred to City Hall, which will purchase the equipment and then forward it to the police.

"The decrease of crime depends on how the police are ... equipped," Balt-Uneximbank chairman Vadim Zingman said Thursday.

"We cannot allow the bandits to be better equipped than the police. Our civic duty is to help the police," he said.

Vladimir Kuznetsov, a City Hall official who, together with St. Petersburg Police Academy specialists, worked on the program, said neither Bank-Uneximbank nor any other businesses were named in the program as sponsors and it was the bank's initiative to support the police.

"We are glad that [Balt-Uneximbank] decided to help the police," Kuznetsov said.

The federal law on the police allows officers to receive financial help from nonfederal structures. However, analysts say such practices make police vulnerable to pressure from criminal, business and administrative authorities.

"Today, every bandit who respects himself creates a special fund to support the police; it is both prestigious and helpful. And the police willingly accept money and cars from such funds," said Andrei Piontkovsky, director of the Center for Strategic Studies, a Moscow-based think tank. "Look at all the Mercedes parked in front of police precincts."

Piontkovsky said that by having Balt-Uneximbank support the police, Yakovlev is attempting to "privatize the police."

"A lot [has been] written about Yakovlev's ties with criminal structures, so this [privatization] is quite logical," Piontkovsky said in a telephone interview Thursday.

Vyacheslav Kovalenko, a police spokesman, said he did not think accepting support from Balt-Uneximbank was wrong. "I don't see anything here that could be wrong from an ethical or moral point of view," Kovalenko said in a telephone interview Thursday.