Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Did Putin Cave In Over Criminal Code?

President Vladimir Putin recently asked parliament to pass a law that would bring criminal procedure in line with the Constitution by requiring court warrants for arrests and searches.

But some say the bill has so angered law enforcement officials that Putin has already withdrawn it.

State Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov said at a human rights conference that he and other members of the coordinating council of the Union of Right Forces, or SPS, were informed Sunday that Putin withdrew the bill two hours after they passed a resolution in support of it.

Yushenkov said Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo and Federal Security Service chief Nikolai Patrushev had put pressure on the Kremlin to recall the bill.

Yushenkov's assertion could not be immediately confirmed. A Kremlin spokeswoman said she had no information on the bill's status.

Yushenkov's colleague in the Duma's SPS faction, Sergei Kovalyov, also said he had heard that the bill was recalled. But pressed for more information, he said: "At the moment, it's just a rumor."

The bill would have amended the Criminal Procedural Code, which was written in the 1960s and does not correspond to the 1993 Constitution.

According to the Constitution, a person may be detained for up to 48 hours, and a court's sanction is required to hold him any longer. The inviolability of a person's home is also protected.

But the Criminal Procedural Code gives control of arrests and searches to investigators and prosecutors. Thus, prosecutors were not required to go to court before they ordered masked, Kalashnikov-wielding men to raid the offices of Media-MOST last spring. Nor did they need a court order to arrest Media-MOST founder Vladimir Gusinsky in June and hold him for three nights. Federal prosecutors can hold a defendant in jail for up to a year before trial.

In contrast, former Kremlin property manager Pavel Borodin appeared before a judge a day after he was detained by U.S. authorities.

Legal experts have welcomed the bill as a long-overdue remedy to a clear violation of the Constitution.

"The Constitution has been in effect for many years, so it's time that the norms of the Constitution were put into practice," said Pavel Krasheninnikov, a former justice minister and chairman of the Duma's committee on legislation.

His committee was planning to take up the bill for consideration Monday, Vedomosti reported Friday. The bill was expected to sail through the Duma because it had been sponsored by the president.

Human Rights Commissioner Oleg Mironov said Saturday he "felt great satisfaction" when he heard that Putin had introduced the bill.

"This is a big step forward," said Vladimir Mironov, a former Moscow City Court judge. "No longer will the first person to come into contact with a suspect — and that person is not a disinterested party — decide his fate."

But a source in the prosecutor's office complained to Vedomosti that such a law would unnecessarily complicate investigations and that courts would not be prepared to deal with the caseload.

Vladimir Mironov, who is also a judicial reform advocate, said he did not believe that judges were too busy to deal with arrests and searches.

"Actually, we have 600 judges who don't work at all. I don't believe that judges are overburdened. I know the situation in the courts," he said.

Judicial control over arrests and searches is written into the draft of the new Criminal Procedural Code, which was passed in a first reading in 1997. A group of experts is preparing that draft for the second reading, and Yabloko Deputy Yelena Mizulina has said she would like to see it passed and signed into law by the end of the year.

The story surrounding the president's amendments to the current code could indicate a renewed struggle for influence over Putin.

Yushenkov and Kovalyov aide Lev Levinson said Dmitry Kozak, deputy Kremlin chief of staff, was the bill's key author. If the bill was indeed recalled, it would not be the first time that Kozak has been overridden by Putin. In May, Putin had been expected to nominate Kozak, an old ally from St. Petersburg, to the post of prosecutor general. At the last minute, Ustinov was nominated instead.