Interview With Chairman of the Investigative Committee of Russia to RIA Novosti News Agency

Alexander Bastrykin: “Pseudo Truths” Forced Upon Russian Youth From Outside

On the fifteenth day of January, the Investigative Committee of Russia commemorates its 11th anniversary. In such a short period of time, your government agency has truly proved itself and earned people’s trust. Chairman of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation Alexander Bastrykin in a RIA Novosti interview on how to protect children from the “hybrid war” with the West, why the first psychiatric examination found the mass murderer Galyaviev mentally incompetent and on working results of the Russian investigators. Darina Khanuna sat down with A. Bastrykin.

– Can you tell me about working results of the Investigative Committee in 2021? How many criminal cases did you open up? How many criminal cases did you complete and send for trial?
– Last year, the Investigative Committee in concert with other law enforcement agencies continued to investigate crimes against the person, identify financial, corruption-related crimes and crimes in public office, other socially dangerous acts, protect the rights of minors and citizens in need of the government support.
The officers of the Investigative Committee opened up 124,782 criminal cases (in 11 months of the year 2021 – Ed. Note) and sent 83,532 criminal cases for trial. Most of them are crimes against the person. That being said, 8,565 of criminal cases sent for trial are corruption-related cases. The officers also investigated 6,558 crimes of the past years and more than two thousand crimes committed by organized criminal groups. Last year, the victims and the government were indemnified for around 62 billion rubles. Besides, the committee seized the property of charged offenders, including the assets abroad, worth a total of 67.3 billion rubles.
– What lines of work were a top priority for your agency last year?
– In addition to our primary line of work related to investigation of criminal cases and review of crime reports, we also paid much attention to other important matters associated with protection of people’s rights. A form of interaction that we have chosen, personal appointments, as a rule, shows good results. Heads of local investigative departments and I thoroughly examine every situation at hand. We have arranged interaction with people on different online platforms where certain matters relating to our activity and protection of their rights are promptly explained to them. Such communications method allows us to have feedback.
We placed high emphasis on international cooperation in criminal justice and development of measures to implement the state policy for administration of criminal justice within the scope of our powers. We drafted proposals intended to improve the crime situation involving migrant workers, fight corruption and in many other lines of work. We continued to strengthen our expert institution – Forensic Center of the Investigative Committee and Main Forensic Science Department. We have been developing in-house education and increasing the numbers of the IC cadets and students.
– How did you protect people’s labor rights during the pandemic?
– How many extremist and terrorist crimes did your committee investigate?
– The investigators of the IC of Russia sent for trial 197 terrorist crimes (+19.4%) and 184 extremist crimes, which is 2.5 times more than in 2020 (70 cases). The analytical effort along this avenue is indicative that, unfortunately, it is young people who often become suspects in such cases for reasons I have mentioned before.
– Could you give any examples?
These and other examples and statistical figures I have mentioned are the overall result of cooperation and lean interaction between law enforcement agencies, which allows us to counter criminality. But let me stress it once again that prevention of such crimes must be carried out in cooperation and at all times, at all levels, but, in prevention efforts, it is upbringing and conditions for youth employment that should receive great importance to make sure that the energy of young people was discharged constructively rather than destructively.
– What do you think should be undertaken to prevent such crimes?
The growing criminality of migrant workers also requires a new approach. These are chiefly young people from the Central Asian countries, who are often recruited to commit such crimes. Suffice it to say that, last March, the FSS officers arrested a native of Central Asia in Adygea, who planned to bomb one of the shopping centers in Maikop. The suspect had components of an improvised explosive device with striking elements, IED manufacturing guidelines, symbols and markings of ISIS*, a terrorist organization banned in Russia (declared a terrorist organization and banned in the Russian Federation), and forged migration papers. This is a bright example.
Besides, it is a common fact that immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa use transit through our country to move to the EU countries, resulting in real risks that members of international terrorist and extremist organizations could enter Russia.
As a result, in 2022, it is paramount that we pay closer attention to development of migration processes. To that end, it seems expedient that we should novelize, as I have said before, and codify the legal base for government control in this sphere, increase automation of administrative procedures for employment of migrant workers. Take targeted prevention efforts among employers for social adaptation of migrant workers and efforts intended to obtain information about possible negative processes in their midst to promptly respond to and avert dangerous effects. I am convinced that measures we have proposed will minimize extremist and terrorist threats.
– Yes, in one of the criminal cases, the investigators found that a website operating in the darknet arranged for commission of grave and particularly grave offenses. The website owner was focused on offering customers unlawful services for a fee. At this time, the investigators have completed their inquiry into the murder of a married couple in Vladimir Oblast in 2020 and preparations for the murder of a Saint Petersburg resident. The crimes were arranged via the said website using digital conspiracy and customer payments were received in cryptocurrency or fiat money via electronic wallets registered on behalf of straw men. Four individuals were convicted of criminal offenses – a mastermind and perpetrators, who were taken into custody. Currently, they, together with their attorneys, are reading criminal case files. And, sadly, this is not the only case. The anonymity of such websites is a fertile ground for organization of crimes.
– Is there anything that can be done in the light of problems in tracking processes taking place in this field?
We also develop proactive measures to fight such crimes. For instance, the academies of the Investigative Committee established special departments to teach aspects of inquiries into cybercrimes. Meanwhile, their employees conduct research intended to develop methods to prevent and counter such crimes.
Besides, the agency has on a regular basis been attending several international bilateral and multilateral forums to discuss security in the field of information and communications technologies. For example, a representative of the Investigative Committee was included in the Russian delegation of the UN Ad Hoc Committee to Elaborate a Comprehensive International Convention on Countering the Use of Information and Communications Technologies for Criminal Purposes and in the UN Open-Ended Working Group on Security of and in the Use of Information and Communications Technologies. The working results of these forums will lay the groundwork for international legal relations in the virtual sphere for the foreseeable future.
– You always urge to give more attention to children and teenagers. How many crimes against children did the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation identify? Is there any increase in the number of such crimes?
– As far as I know, the Investigative Committee always tries to help victims.
– That’s true. When we investigate such crimes, it is important for us not only to restore justice, but also to help victims overcome the tragedy. And we have such experience. Many children, who were injured as a result of crimes, received treatment thanks to the Research Institute for Emergency Pediatric Surgery and Traumatology. We are also backed by all-Russian children’s centers in Krasnodar Krai and Crimea, where children are taken for recovery aided by the Investigative Committee. Other federal subjects also organized aid for children.
It has to be said that existing practices should be further developed nationwide. There is a statutory framework providing for psychological counseling as part of the rehabilitation. But it is not always technically possible. For example, if a victim comes from a remote area, his or her relatives have to handle logistics all by themselves and this is not always possible if the family is poor. Therefore, it is important for aid to be available and affordable to all victims, so that they can promptly receive such aid. There should be a single mechanism for rendering such aid.
Our attitude towards children goes beyond formal boundaries. We are also trying to help victims in future, make sure that their lives are smooth.
– There has recently been a murder of a five-year-old girl in Kostroma. Among the suspects is a child molester, who served his time behind bars. What is wrong with our system, if such people turn to crime again?
– It is a terrible story and, unfortunately, our reality. In the daylight, two suspects kidnap and kill a child in a large city. And there are very many questions as to how we can avert it. When it comes to legislation, we have supported a bill to sentence child molesters for life in the case of a second offense against children. You are right, this is not the first example, when these people commit new crimes after release from prison. Therefore, such a legislative measure is the best way to respond to the existing situation. But punishment for crime is post factum. We need a very stringent continuous monitoring of individuals, who are released from prison after the first sexual assault on minors. Control over such individuals should go way beyond their obligation of periodic appearance before police officers. And there is no room for formalism here. The system can properly operate only if all law enforcers fulfill their duties in good faith.
Speaking of the tragedy in Kostroma, let me add that we opened up another criminal case on the grounds of negligence of police officers of the city police station No. 2, who, the investigators believe, failed to properly carry out administrative supervision introduced by court over the individual released from prison.
– Given the data the investigators collected during the inquiry, Vitaly Berezhnoy is indicted on a charge of a murder, abduction, rape and sexual assault of a girl. We gathered hard evidence of his involvement as indicated by the victim’s blood stains found inside a refrigerator in an apartment of the charged offender. Berezhnoy’s involvement in other similar crimes was examined, but eventually ruled out. In the coming days, the investigators plan to hand over criminal case files for the parties to read.
– After this murder, the police opened up a criminal case over disappearance of another eight children in Tyumen Oblast in the past years. Did the investigators find anything?
– The inquiry into disappearance of eight children in the city of Tyumen and Tyumen Oblast from 1997 to 2010 is underway. We have a team headed by one of the most experienced investigators from the Central Office appointed to lead the inquiry. They carry out necessary investigative and operational activities, comprehensive forensic tests. In the meantime, law enforcers investigated a criminal case over negligence of officials of child protective services, which is currently reviewed by court. Following the investigation of this case, the committee sent the regional governor a remedial action order to eliminate reasons and conditions conducive to commission of crimes – the governor was informed that it was necessary to set up additional video cameras in a city to ensure security.
– In December, Ilnaz Galyaviev, who staged a school shooting in Kazan, faced a final indictment. Before that, he underwent two psychiatric examinations, the first of which found him mentally incompetent at the time of commission of the crime, as the members of the Moscow Public Monitoring Commission said. However, the second examination showed a different result. How come?
– The follow-up psychiatric examination was commissioned, as the first examination did not take into account the effects of the Columbine High School massacre on Galyaviev. In order to commission the second examination, the investigators provided experts with additional materials – reports of destructologists, who concluded that Galyaviev’s motivation was reduced to mimicking actions of other followers of this movement, including Vladislav Roslyakov, who organized a mass shooting in Kerch. The investigators collected the respective materials about special aspects of this subculture, which were also submitted to experts. Besides, the second examination engaged a wider selection of experts – leading psychiatry researchers. As a result, the examination confirmed the suspect’s mental capacity both at the time of commission of the crime and at this time. We found that Galyaviev’s criminal intent began to take shape at the beginning of 2021. His intent was further galvanized by online stories about destructive networks, specifically mass shootings and bombings in schools by the Columbine subculture followers.
– Is there anyone else responsible for what happened apart from him?
– From the legal perspective, we evaluate all factors, which preceded the tragedy. Among them are circumstances, which constitute a crime. We filed charges against a director of a company, which installed and maintained magnetic locks, an engineer of a company, which maintained the voice alarm in the school. They are accused of providing services, failing to meet security requirements. The director of the gymnasium No. 175 was indicted on a charge of a negligence set forth by the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, who, according to the investigators, failed to take necessary steps to ensure security in the educational establishment.
– Another tragic event involving shooting occurred at the Perm university. What was the motive for a young person to commit a crime in this case? Is he also mentally fit? What stage is the inquiry into this criminal case at?
– The Investigative Committee of Russia continues to probe into the mass shooting at the Perm State National Research University committed by Timur Bekmansurov. The charged offender underwent a psychiatric examination, which found him mentally fit. We are seeking to determine the motives and objectives of crimes committed.
– In December, there was a tragedy at the nunnery in Serpukhov. A young person bombed the monastery. Can you tell me about this case in more detail?
– The investigation is underway. We have commissioned a set of forensic examinations, including a comprehensive psychiatric examination. Vladislav Struzhenkov, an eighteen-year-old graduate of the Orthodox gymnasium in Serpukhov, was charged with an attempted murder of two and more persons committed by a socially dangerous method from hooligan motives and with illegal manufacturing of an explosive device. The study of the content, which Struzhenkov preferred, also showed that the suspect’s had taken interest in foreign destructive movements. He confessed to crimes during the inquiry. We found out that he brought and activated an IED with a total yield of 150 g of TNT equivalent. During the inquiry, we also examine circumstances conducive to commission of the crime.
– How do you think we should control arms sale to prevent such incidents, as those in Perm and Kazan?
– Due to several headline-making incidents, the Investigative Committee came forward with initiatives, which are currently discussed by the government agencies. In order to toughen control over civilian arms sale and use, we proposed to reintroduce a procedure, according to which the police will be responsible for controlling the arms and ammunition in circulation.
But it is also important to maintain interdepartmental interaction.
As a safeguard, we need to explore the question of vesting power in FSS and MIA of Russia to conduct law enforcement intelligence-gathering activities and prepare reports on the revocation of licenses from individuals in possession of weapons due to changes in their behavior posing a public threat and of introducing criminal responsibility for repeated commission of administrative offenses specified in Part 6, Article 20.8 and Article 20.10 of the Administrative Offenses Code of the Russian Federation. They set forth administrative responsibility for a failure to observe rules for arms production and circulation and illegal arms trafficking in the absence of elements essential to the criminal offense.
– How do you think we can protect the youth from commission of such crimes? What needs to be done?
– I have said it on many occasions. The problem is deeper than it may look at a first glance. First of all, these are values, on which the personality of young people is based. It’s not just the parental or school upbringing, but also what our children watch on TV, on the Internet. And if we take a look at what products we receive from outside, their impact is obvious. We can see ideals and bearings foreign to us, an aspiration to achieve a goal despite the rules of morality and law, absolutize the individual freedom by opposing it to its other values. Such pseudo truths are forced upon us during the hybrid war. Movies and other materials are stained with them and the youth “consumes” them very quickly and easily. The security of young people has become a truly immense problem, which was outlined in the National Security Strategy approved by the Russian President. And such problem requires extensive measures of government and public institutions intended to change the situation. It is not just the bans that we need, we’d rather need good conditions for the youth development starting from the school age. And it would be expedient to restore a union of the student youth for university students. And as a reference, we need to use traditional Russian spiritual and moral values, culture, trying to keep the historical memory. There is a great deal of examples of heroes of the Motherland in our history, who demonstrated true courage and valor. We should use such examples as a reference. With that in mind, the Investigative Committee actively develops the system of in-house education built on these values and principles. We have two academies and several cadet corps in Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Volgograd, and Sevastopol. Our students do not surf the Internet to kill time. They have more interesting and important things to attend to – help veterans, take part in patriotic events, visit museums, monuments, historical and cultural heritage sites and sometimes help put them in order. They value their time and understand that there is no use wasting time on questionable leisure pursuits. And when I look at such youth, I feel assured that a good generation of patriots and professionals of their craft will come in our stead.
– This year, there were media reports of tortures of inmates in the prison hospital in Saratov Oblast. The committee opened up 12 criminal cases. Can you tell me how many suspects you have in these cases?
– Twelve criminal cases that you have mentioned are integrated. According to the investigators, from 2020 to 2021, inmates, acting on orders from employees of the tuberculosis hospital of the Department of the Federal Penitentiary Service for Saratov Oblast repeatedly abused and assaulted other inmates sexually video recording their actions. Their intent was to intimidate and extortion money. Today, we have 13 inmates named victims in the case. Four inmates were charged with sexual abuse and assault. Other inmates are probed into complicity in these crimes. Among the suspects are also two officials of the institution, who appear to have abused their office.
– Alexander Ivanovich, thank you for the conversation and accept our best wishes for all officers of the Investigative Committee on the occasion of the landmark day for your agency!
– Let me use this opportunity and endorse your congratulations. From the bottom of my heart, I wish splendid health, success and abundance to all officers and their family members, our students and cadets, and veterans of the Investigative Committee! It must be borne in mind that good investigative results forge zero tolerance to any criminal actions, contribute to good upbringing of the younger generation and successful implementation of important social programs!