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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Witnesses to Receive Bodyguards

Witnesses whose testimony in court could cost them their lives will get bodyguards and possibly plastic surgery under a witness protection program approved by the Cabinet.

Other protective measures include relocation and bulletproof vests.

The $35.5 million program is meant to shore up the country's shaky criminal justice system, the government said this week on its web site.

Legislators have wanted a witness protection program for years. The State Duma passed measures in 1995 and 1997 that would have created one, but President Boris Yeltsin vetoed both bills.

Then, in 2004, President Vladimir Putin signed the law on government defense of victims, witnesses and other participants in legal proceedings.

But human rights activists and crime experts say that the law opens the door to police abuse and that the government is unable, in any event, to offer witnesses much protection.

The Interior Ministry, the Federal Security Service, the State Customs Committee and the Federal Drug Control Service would be responsible for protecting witnesses.