Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD)
Unlike the successor agencies to the KGB, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Ministerstvo vnutrennikh del--MVD) did not undergo extensive reorganization after 1991. The MVD carries out regular police functions, including maintenance of public order and criminal investigation. It also has responsibility for fire fighting and prevention, traffic control, automobile registration, transportation security, issuance of visas and passports, and administration of labor camps and most prisons.
In 1996 the MVD was estimated to have 540,000 personnel, including the regular militia (police force) and MVD special troops but not including the ministry's Internal Troops. The MVD operates at both the central and local levels. The central system is administered from the ministry office in Moscow. As of mid-1996, the minister of internal affairs was General Anatoliy Kulikov. He replaced Viktor Yerin, who was dismissed in response to State Duma demands after the MVD mishandled the 1995 Budennovsk hostage crisis.
MVD agencies exist at all levels from the national to the municipal. MVD agencies at lower operational levels conduct preliminary investigations of crimes. They also perform the ministry's policing, motor vehicle inspection, and fire and traffic control duties. MVD salaries are generally lower than those paid in other agencies of the criminal justice system. Reportedly, staffers are poorly trained and equipped, and corruption is widespread.
Until 1990 Russia's regular militia was under the direct supervision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Soviet Union. At that time, the Russian Republic established its own MVD, which assumed control of the republic's militia. In the late 1980s, the Gorbachev regime had attempted to improve training, tighten discipline, and decentralize the administration of the militia throughout the Soviet Union so that it might respond better to local needs and deal more effectively with drug trafficking and organized crime. Some progress was made toward these objectives despite strong opposition from conservative elements in the CPSU leadership. However, after 1990 the redirection of MVD resources to the Internal Troops and to the MVD's new local riot squads undercut militia reform. In the August 1991 coup against the Gorbachev government, most Russian police remained inactive, although some in Moscow joined the Yeltsin forces that opposed the overthrow of the government.
In early 1996, a reorganization plan was proposed for the MVD, with the aim of more effective crime prevention. The plan called for increasing the police force by as many as 90,000, but funding was not available for such expansion. Meanwhile, the MVD recruited several thousand former military personnel, whose experience reduced the need for police training. At the end of 1995, the MVD reported debts of US$717 million, including US$272 million in overdue wages. In February 1996, guards at a jail and a battalion of police escorts went on a hunger strike; at that point, some of the MVD's Internal Troops had not been paid for three months. Minister of Internal Affairs Kulikov described the ministry's 1996 state budget allocation of US$5.2 billion as wholly inadequate to fulfill its missions. Participation in the Chechnya campaign added enormously to ministry expenditures.
The MVD's militia is used for ordinary policing functions such as law enforcement on the streets, crowd control, and traffic control. As part of a trend toward decentralization, some municipalities, including Moscow, have formed their own militias, which cooperate with their MVD counterpart. Although a new law on self-government supports such local law enforcement agencies, the Yeltsin administration attempted to head off further moves toward independence by strictly limiting local powers. The regular militia does not carry guns or other weapons except in emergency situations, such as the parliamentary crisis of 1993, when it was called upon to fight antigovernment crowds in the streets of Moscow.
The militia is divided into local public security units and criminal police. The security units run local police stations, temporary detention centers, and the State Traffic Inspectorate. They deal with crimes outside the jurisdiction of the criminal police and are charged with routine maintenance of public order. The criminal police are divided into organizations responsible for combating particular types of crime. The Main Directorate for Organized Crime (Glavnoye upravleniye organizovannogo prestupleniya--GUOP) works with other agencies such as the MVD's specialized rapid-response detachments; in 1995 special GUOP units were established to deal with contract killings and other violent crimes against individuals. The Federal Tax Police Service deals primarily with tax evasion and similar crimes. In an attempt to improve Russia's notoriously inefficient tax collection operation, the Federal Tax Police Service received authority in 1995 to carry out preliminary criminal investigations independently. The 1996 budget authorized a staff of 38,000 for this agency.
Throughout the first half of the 1990s, Russia's militia functioned with minimal arms, equipment, and support from the national legal system. The inadequacy of the force became particularly apparent in the wave of organized crime that began sweeping over Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Many highly qualified individuals have moved from the militia into better-paying jobs in the field of private security, which has expanded to meet the demand of companies needing protection from organized crime. Frequent bribe taking among the remaining members of the militia has damaged the force's public credibility. Numerous revelations of participation by militia personnel in murders, prostitution rings, information peddling, and tolerance of criminal acts have created a general public perception that all police are at least taking bribes. Bribery of police officers to avoid arrest for traffic violations and petty crimes is a routine and expected occurrence.
In a 1995 poll of the public, only 5 percent of respondents expressed confidence in the ability of the militia to deal with crime in their city. Human rights organizations have accused the Moscow militia of racism in singling out non-Slavic individuals (especially immigrants from Russia's Caucasus republics), physical attacks, unjustified detention, and other rights violations. In 1995 Kulikov conducted a high-profile "Clean Hands Campaign" to purge the MVD police forces of corrupt elements. In its first year, this limited operation caught several highly placed MVD officials collecting bribes, indicating a high level of corruption throughout the agency. According to experts, the main causes of corruption are insufficient funding to train and equip personnel and pay them adequate wages, poor work discipline, lack of accountability, and fear of reprisals from organized criminals.
The Special Forces Police Detachment (Otryad militsii osobogo naznacheniya--OMON), commonly known as the Black Berets, is a highly trained elite branch of the public security force of the MVD militia. Established in 1987, OMON is assigned to emergency situations such as hostage crises, widespread public disturbances, and terrorist threats. In the Soviet period, OMON forces also were used to quell unrest in rebellious republics. In the 1990s, OMON units have been stationed at transportation hubs and population centers. The Moscow contingent, reportedly 2,000 strong, receives support from the mayor's office and the city's internal affairs office as well as from the MVD budget. OMON units have the best and most up-to-date weapons and combat equipment available, and they enjoy a reputation for courage and effectiveness.
The MVD's Internal Troops, estimated to number 260,000 to 280,000 in mid-1996, are better equipped and trained than the regular militia. The size of the force, which is staffed by both conscripts and volunteers, has grown steadily through the mid-1990s, although the troop commander has reported serious shortages of officers. Critics have noted that the Internal Troops have more divisions in a combat-ready state than do the regular armed forces (see Force Structure, ch. 9).
According to the Law on Internal Troops, issued in October 1992, the functions of the Internal Troops are to ensure public order; guard key state installations, including nuclear power plants; guard prisons and labor camps (a function that was to end in 1996); and contribute to the territorial defense of the nation. It was under the last mandate that Internal Troops were deployed in large numbers after the December 1994 invasion of Chechnya. In November 1995, MVD troops in Chechnya totaled about 23,500. This force included unknown proportions of Internal Troops, specialized rapid-response troops, and special military detachments. Internal Troops are equipped with guns and combat equipment to deal with serious crimes, terrorism, and other extraordinary threats to public order. In 1995 the crime rate among Internal Troops personnel doubled. A contributing factor was a steep increase in desertions that coincided with service in Chechnya, where the Internal Troops were routinely used for street patrols in 1995.