In the Soviet criminal justice system, the Procuracy was the most powerful institution dealing with nonpolitical crimes. Since 1991 the agency has retained its dual responsibility for the administration of judicial oversight and for criminal investigations--which means, essentially, that prosecution of crimes and findings of guilt or innocence are overseen by the same office. As it was under the Soviet system, the Procuracy in the 1990s is a unified, centralized agency with branches in all subnational jurisdictions, including cities. The chief of the agency is the procurator general, who is appointed by the president with the approval of the State Duma. (Under the Soviet system, the Supreme Soviet appointed the procurator general.)
Proposed reforms of the notoriously corrupt and inefficient Procuracy had not yet been enacted by the Russian government as of mid-1996, so the agency continued to function in much the same way as it did in the Soviet period. Experts did not believe that a new law on the Procuracy, proposed in 1995 and 1996, would establish a reliable oversight system over security-agency and regular police operations. In the meantime, procurators continued to arrest citizens without constitutionally mandated arrest warrants, and the general surveillance departments of the Procuracy continued to spy on law-abiding groups and individuals.
In 1995 about 28,000 procurators were active at some level in the Russian Federation. Appointed to five-year terms, procurators must have a postgraduate education in jurisprudence. The Procuracy employs a large number of investigators who carry out preliminary investigations in what are called specific areas of competence. Special investigators are designated for cases identified as "essentially important" by state authorities. The Procuracy also has several institutions for research and education attached to it.