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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Investigators May Get Greater Independence

The State Duma Security Committee split on Thursday on whether to send to the full house a bill that would strip the Prosecutor General's Office of its investigative function.

"The time has come to strengthen the independence of the investigation arm of the Prosecutor General's Office, to isolate it institutionally while maintaining the office's oversight function," United Russia Deputy Alexei Volkov told the Regnum news agency in advance of Thursday's session.

The bill, co-sponsored by Volkov and fellow United Russia Deputy Alexei Rozuvan, would reassign investigators in prosecutor's offices at the federal, regional and municipal levels to a new, semi-autonomous agency affiliated with the Prosecutor General's Office.

It provides for the creation of an investigative committee attached to the Prosecutor General's Office that would be headed by a deputy prosecutor general nominated by the president and approved by the Federation Council.

The Prosecutor General's Office itself would focus on overseeing investigations and prosecuting criminal cases, the bill states.

Volkov's arguments failed to win over half of his colleagues on the Security Committee, including Chairman Vladimir Vasilyev of United Russia, who told Interfax after the session that the bill needed more work.

The committee's 10-10 vote could put the measure on the back burner indefinitely unless it gains the support of the Duma's Constitution and State Affairs Committee, which is also scheduled to hold hearings on the bill.

The bill also met with a cool reception at the Prosecutor General's Office.

Deputy Prosecutor General Sabir Kekhlerov attacked the bill at the session, arguing that creating a semi-autonomous investigative arm would contradict guidelines set out by the United Nations and the Council of Europe, Interfax reported.

Kekhlerov said that while the new investigative committee would formally remain part of the Prosecutor General's Office, in practice it would be independent, particularly since the head of the committee would be chosen by the president.

The prosecutor general would have no effective mechanism for influencing the operations of the committee, he said.

Kekhlerov did say, however, that the Prosecutor General's Office continued to support the idea of stripping all law enforcement agencies of their investigative functions and assigning these to a new entity.