Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Russia Rocked By Police Corruption Claims

The idea of police corruption is sadly nothing new in Russia - I've heard from a number of friends stories of having to pay "fines" (small bribes really) for committing non-existent offenses while visiting Russia; I also once heard a well-known journalist explain how during the Beslan elementary school terrorist attack/siege in 2004, it was possible to bribe your way past the security cordon for just a few dollars. But the revelations of Alexei Dymovsky, formerly a Major on the Novorossiisk, Krasnodar police force have become the talk of the nation, perhaps for the way Major Dymovsky told his tale - through a series of online videos on YouTube and his personal website last Thursday.

In the clips, Maj. Dymovsky gave a gripping account of a police department riddled with corruption: from young people taking jobs with the police at just $400 per month, knowing that they could make much more from bribes; to officers being ordered to solve non-existent crimes to boost statistics; to officers being denied sick days and health care access; to his own personal admission that he gained his Major's rank by agreeing to prosecute a man he knew to be innocent. Dymovsky repeated his allegations at press conference in Moscow on Tuesday, which also sadly happened to be National Police Day in Russia.

Dymovsky's allegations have officials scrambling. He was promptly fired by the Novorossiisk Police Dept., who are also threatening to sue him for slander. At his press conference Dymovsky claimed he had to drive the 800 miles to Moscow after he found he couldn't buy an airline ticket because his credit card was frozen and he feared his family was now being followed by the authorities. Officially the Kremlin has not had a response, saying that Dymovsky's claims had to be checked first, even though he addressed his You Tube clip to "Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin]" asking him to conduct "an independent investigation throughout Russia" into police corruption.

This wasn't the first time, according to RussiaToday that Dymovsky tried to enlist Putin in an investigation of the police. In 2006 during a televised nationwide Q&A session with the then president, Dymovsky asked Putin: "when will the police abuses be stopped in Krasnodar region?”, though he says his chiefs then pressured him to say he misspoke.

Some official quarters have responded though, the Russian Interior Ministry announced they would launch an investigation into Dymovsky's charges beginning on Monday. Of course since this is Russia, the conspiracy theories are also flying along with Dymovsky's charges. Those trying to discredit Dymovsky say he being used by "foreign influences" to discredit Russia's police, specifically the United States who are funneling money from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) through a Novorossiisk-based human rights organization to Dymovsky; another theory is that Dymovsky is being used as a front by the Kremlin itself to remove some high-ranking police officials under a cloud scandal.

The record number of hits on Dymovsky's website and his YouTube videos though suggest this conspiracy won't go away quietly.
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