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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kasyanov Assails Police Role in Economic Disputes

Russia's prime minister warned the country's police forces Friday not to take sides in economic disputes, and chided law enforcement officers for interfering in business, Interfax reported.

"Any business can be presented as an illegal enterprise," Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told a gathering of top security officials in Moscow, including the interior minister and the head of Russia's Federal Security Service, the main successor to the Soviet-era KGB.

President Vladimir Putin vowed to make all citizens equal before the law when he took office last year, but Kasyanov's speech Friday suggested the government is not pleased with the results so far.

He said police "willingly or unwillingly" choose sides when they decide to press a case against a business, according to Interfax.

Kasyanov said that Russian entrepreneurs had coined a phrase, "mask show," for police raids on businesses. In such raids, police often wear body armor and ski masks and carry assault rifles - even if the most dangerous thing they are searching for is a document.

"This really doesn't bring respect for law enforcement," he said.

Kasyanov also called for increased action to prevent the infiltration of organized crime groups into police and security agencies.

"The link between organized crime and certain power bodies is a real scourge for the country," he said.

Kasyanov, a former finance minister, has largely concentrated on financial issues and left security to President Vladimir Putin and a tight coterie of advisers mostly drawn from the Federal Security Service. His speech Friday was an exception.