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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Must Fight for His Reforms

"This is a big step forward," said former Moscow City Court Judge Vladimir Mironov after President Vladimir Putin had introduced legislation that would finally bring the Criminal Procedural Code in line with the Constitution. Human Rights Commissioner Oleg Mironov said he "felt great satisfaction" with Putin's action.

The Duma legislation committee was set to begin immediate consideration of the proposal, which was widely expected to sail through with ease. The bill — which would have mandated court-ordered arrest and search warrants — was set to become the next major step in legal reform, following December’s passage of a bill that reduced the maximum period of pretrial detention from 18 to 12 months.

Until, that is, Putin unceremoniously withdrew it on Monday, reportedly under pressure from police and prosecutors. Dmitry Kozak, the Kremlin’s deputy chief of staff, told journalists that although Putin still supports the bill, a number of legal, technical and organizational issues need to be resolved. Supporters of the reform, though, fear that the proposal will be worked to death behind closed doors.

We can only hope that these fears prove unjustified and that the government quickly returns with a bill that is substantively the same. Legal reform must remain a priority of the highest order, especially as the government is moving very quickly to strengthen the police and security organs. Only a strong legal foundation based on constitutional guarantees can prevent Putin’s much-ballyhooed "dictatorship of law" from devolving into mere dictatorship.

The president’s primary obligation is to ensure that all the provisions of the Constitution are consistently and effectively enforced. By introducing this legislation, Putin has shown that he takes this obligation seriously. Now he must show that he has the determination to stay the course despite entrenched interests pursuing less noble ends.

Serious reform is rarely easy. The resistance that we are now seeing in regard to legal reform, we fear, is child’s play compared to what is to come when Putin moves seriously with the military reform that the Security Council approved last November.

However, Putin has no excuse for backing down. His popularity rating is astonishingly high, and there is significant public support for this particular reform. The president has committed allies in the Duma, and the necessary funds for implementing the reform can surely be found.

Yielding in this instance may undermine all of the much-needed reforms that Putin has pledged himself to. Now Putin must prove he is ready for the difficult fights to come.