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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bill Would Set Up New Investigative Agency

A group of Federation Council senators has submitted a bill to the State Duma that foresees the establishment of an independent body that would investigate crimes committed by the president, the prosecutor general and other top officials.

The bill, submitted on Oct. 5, envisions the creation of the Agency of Accredited Prosecutors, a commission analogous to the now-dormant United States Office of the Independent Counsel, which was created in the wake of Watergate in the 1970s and investigated the Monica Lewinsky scandal during Bill Clinton's presidency.

It is unclear if and when the bill will make it to the Duma floor for debate. But if passed into law, the commission would consist of 17 members appointed by the president, both houses of parliament and the human rights ombudsman.

Each member would carry the title of deputy prosecutor general, while the chairman would be a first deputy prosecutor general.

The commission would handle preliminary investigations into suspected crimes committed by senior officials.

The bill would also create a schism in the Prosecutor General's Office, with the commission investigating the office's violations of constitutional rights, which have created "a large negative resonance in society," according to a copy of the bill.

None of the bill's five authors could be reached for comment Wednesday.

But Senator Anatoly Lyskov told Gazeta in an interview published on Wednesday that a watchdog was needed for the Prosecutor General's Office.

"Right now, no one can hold the prosecutor general legally responsible for encouraging violations of the law and the Constitution," the senator said.

Lyskov cited as an example Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov's proposal to detain the relatives of hostage-takers as a means to quickly resolve hostage crises.

Prosecutor General's Office spokeswoman Tatyana Matyunina said the agency would not comment on the bill until after it was discussed in the Duma.

If it is formed, the commission would be largely toothless in the current political climate, said Vladimir Pribylovsky, the head of the Panorama think tank.

"It might be used as a weapon among competing factions within the administration, but it would present no threat to the existing chain of command," Pribylovsky said.

He said the bill could eventually become law, given that the president and the Kremlin-controlled houses of parliament would name 15 of the 17 commission members, while the two remaining posts would be decided by the human rights ombudsman.

"It would be just another decorative agency that could be held up to show the West," he said.