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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Hails Russian Prosecutors

President Vladimir Putin returned to his cherished theme of law and order on Thursday, defending Russia's prosecutors and saying they were no longer instruments of totalitarian oppression.

Russian prosecutors have often been tools of the state, particularly under Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, when "special troikas", panels of three judges, sent millions to firing squads and prison camps.

More recently, the office of the general prosecutor has been attacked as a political instrument in what some critics see as Kremlin attempts to silence independent media.

"In the heat of debate, the prosecutor's office has been called a relic of totalitarianism," Putin was quoted by Russian news agencies as telling a meeting of state prosecutors.

Putin, who has pledged to restore "dictatorship of the law" in an often volatile country, said prosecutors these days were improving, though they were not yet perfect.

"The times have gone when the prosecutor's office was a cover for lawlessness in our country, lawlessness for which the whole machinery of the state was also a cover," he said.

"Changes in the prosecutor's office comply with the democratisation of Russia's legal and police system," he said.

Putin has said his dictatorship of the law is not aimed at an increasingly authoritarian state, but making sure people and businesses know what they can expect from the judicial system, that laws work and the creation of a level playing field.

"The development of the Russian economy depends on the effective work of the prosecutor's office and the judicial system," Putin told the prosecutors.

The prosecutor's office has been criticised in recent months for allegedly being used by the Kremlin to pressure Vladimir Gusinsky, owner of Russia's only independent media empire.

Gusinsky has been jailed once and is currently fighting extradition from Spain to Russia on fraud charges, which he says have been cooked up by the authorities to force him to silence his media. Prosecutors deny the charges are political.