Interview of the Chairman of the IC of Russia to Rossiyskaya Gazeta

Bastrykin: The number of cases of extremist crimes has increased

Saturday marks the 11th anniversary of the creation of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation. On the anniversary’s eve, the Chairman of the ICR, Alexander Bastrykin, spoke with the RG correspondent on the latest high-profile cases investigated by his institution, as well as about what dictated the decision to introduce criminal liability for the delay in payments to doctors, why it is important for him to personally talk to citizens who have claims to the investigation. And, of course, about the fight against corruption.
Alexander Ivanovich, what cases of corruption and economic crimes, which the investigators dealt with last year, would you particularly mention?

Alexander Bastrykin: The criminal case we have completed against Raul Arashukov and 15 members of the criminal community he created, including former member of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation from the Karachay-Cherkess Republic Rauf Arashukov, is being considered in court. The accomplices are accused of embezzlement of natural gas supplied to the territory of the North Caucasian Federal District, with a total value of over 4.8 billion rubles, and other grave and especially grave crimes.

The investigation has been completed in the case against former Minister for Open Government Affairs Mikhail Abyzov and his accomplices, and the requirements of Article 217 of the Criminal Procedure Code of the Russian Federation are currently being fulfilled. The defendants have been charged. As a result of their illegal activities, illegal income in the amount of more than 32 billion rubles was obtained.

A verdict has been passed on the mayor of Tomsk, who was found guilty of abuse of official authority committed by the head of a local government body and illegal participation in entrepreneurial activity.

The investigation of criminal cases of corruption crimes committed by the Governor of Penza Oblast Belozertsev and his accomplices, Deputy Governor of Belgorod Oblast Glagolev, Deputy Director of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia Maksimenko, and many others continue.

And what do the overall results look like? How many cases have your subordinates investigated in total?

Alexander Bastrykin: Currently, we are just summing up the results of the work over the past year, and based on the results of the statistical data obtained, a lot of analytical work has to be done, which will be a harbinger of planning further activities of the Investigative Committee, including the introduction of new legislative initiatives, the prevention, and detection of crimes, the suppression of illegal activities. At the same time, it is already safe to say that the past year has once again shown our ability to respond quickly to a rapidly changing situation, promptly and rigidly resist criminal manifestations, new challenges, and threats.

The past year has once again shown the ability of the ICR to promptly and harshly resist criminal manifestations, new challenges, and threats

Despite the difficulties caused by the pandemic, the institution worked vigorously and rhythmically.

Last year, the investigators of the IC of Russia initiated 124,782 criminal cases, sent 83,532 cases to the court (11 months’ statistics). In many main areas, the work efficiency and quantitative indicators have improved.

In particular, during the specified period, 6,558 crimes of previous years were investigated, they include 3,714 grave and especially grave ones, which is 16% more than in the same period of 2020. Among those sent to court are 13,193 criminal cases on economic crimes (9 months’ statistics), which also exceeds the indicator of the same period in 2020 by 13.2%.

Alexander Bastrykin: There is also a positive trend in the investigation of corruption crimes: over 8.6 thousand cases (8565) have been sent to court in 11 months – 15.2% more than in the same period of 2020. In addition, 197 criminal cases on terrorist crimes (+19.4%) and 184 cases on extremist crimes were sent to the court, which is more than 2.5 times higher than in 2020 (70 cases).

I believe that the tasks on combating crime that were set before the department have been fulfilled.

Pay the doctors

You often emphasize that catching a fraudster, completing the investigation, and sending the case to court is half the battle. And who will return the stolen goods to the people and the state?

Alexander Bastrykin: According to data for 11 months of 2021, 61.9 billion rubles were reimbursed to citizens, organizations, and the state that suffered from crimes. The investigation also took measures to seize the property of the accused in the amount of more than 67 billion rubles, which in the future will ensure appropriate compensation.

At the same time, it is important to note that for all the facts of non-payment of monetary allowances to medical personnel involved in the fight against coronavirus, including those voiced by the media and on social networks, procedural checks are carried out immediately, and, as a rule, even before their completion, all debts are repaid.

It should also be noted that on December 3, 2021, in order to improve the organization of work on the identification, suppression, and disclosure of the most complex – tax crimes that the Investigative Committee has been investigating for 10 years (since 2011), an expanded joint meeting of the board of the Federal Tax Service, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia and the Investigative Committee was held. As a result, ways have been outlined to improve our cooperation in identifying violations of the legislation on taxes and fees, as well as taking measures to return unpaid amounts to the state budget.

And if we are talking about cryptocurrency? Do the investigators have such cases, too?

Alexander Bastrykin: I have already noted that in connection with the adoption in July 2020 of the federal law on digital financial assets and digital currency, additional risks of using digital currency for criminal purposes may arise, in particular, for the financing of terrorism and extremism. Therefore, the circulation of digital currency requires further legal regulation – first of all, mandatory identification of users of such currency is necessary. The status of online platforms where cryptocurrency is sold anonymously is also not defined.

A scam for years

The Investigative Committee often talks about the disclosure of so-called “old crimes:” those that could not be solved years ago. But if we look closely, we will see that crimes against person are mostly solved. Are there any economic crimes among them that have gone untrammeled for years or even decades?

Alexander Bastrykin: There are such cases too. For example, the Central Office is completing the investigation of a criminal case against members of a criminal community created by the former Governor of Khabarovsk Krai Sergei Furgal.

According to the investigation, in 2007–2020, in Moscow and Khabarovsk Krai, they committed several serious crimes against property related to the theft of possessions and money laundering. In total, the accused are charged with 10 episodes of criminal activity. The total amount of damage as a result of illegal acts of members of the criminal community created by Furgal amounted to more than 3.8 billion rubles. The property of the accused and related persons, funds, and shares of the authorized capital of affiliated organizations with a total value of more than 1.079 billion rubles was seized.

The investigation of crimes of the past years has always been and remains one of our priorities because this is how the principle of the punishment inevitability is implemented. To do this, we continuously introduce the most advanced investigative techniques, the latest forensic and special equipment into investigative practice, and use modern digital technologies to search for and consolidate evidence in criminal cases of crimes of the past.

Profit worth more than life

Recently, the whole country observed the Listvyazhnaya mine disaster. What, in your opinion, should be changed in the labor protection system so that your subordinates have less work?

Alexander Bastrykin: Unfortunately, the sad experience of many other man-made accidents is not taken into account by the owners and managers of enterprises. Apparently, many people continue to live by the principle of “let’s take a chance, maybe it will work out.” In situations where an investment is required to ensure safety, they continue making a profit, hoping that nothing bad happens. It’s not the first time we’ve talked about this.

This area requires close analysis and attention, and it is obvious that the tragedies that are taking place indicate gaps both in the regulatory part and in the control of such activities. After all, with its proper implementation, most of the incidents could have been prevented. As part of the criminal case on the death of people at the Listvyazhnaya mine in Kemerovo Oblast, investigators are bringing 9 people to criminal responsibility – these are persons from among the management and owners of the mine, as well as representatives of Rostekhnadzor Agency. Given the circumstances that have become known to us during the investigation, this list may expand.

And what was established during the investigation of the dam collapse in the quarry of the Malaya Ceiba River in Krasnoyarsk, as a result of which 20 people died in 2019?

Alexander Bastrykin: In violation of the work project, a cascade of 10 hydraulic structures were erected to retain groundwater and sediments entering the quarry. All this happened in a remote mountainous area. As a result, a cascade of dams retained 2 million tons of water instead of the 200 thousand tons provided for by the project. Later, 4 technological dams collapsed, the resulting mudflow destroyed the shift settlement, people died. We have brought to criminal responsibility Maxim Kovalkov, General Director of Sisim LLC, Evgeny Alexandrov, a mining foreman, and Andrey Yeganov, the head of the site. They exploited an unauthorized cascade of dams, violating safety requirements. The investigation seized the property of Kovalkov and Sisim in the amount of over 176 million rubles. Among the seized property are vehicles, gold, and a share in the authorized capital of the company. At the same time, compensation for damage to victims and their relatives in the amount of 33 million rubles was provided. The criminal case is currently being considered on the merits in court.

Did someone bear responsibility for the death of workers in a collector in the village of Dmitriadovka, Rostov Oblast?

Alexander Bastrykin: The investigation of this criminal case is nearing completion. The Central Office investigators found that during the work at the sewage treatment plants in Taganrog, the accumulated sediment was destroyed during the downtime. As a result, sewage and ammonia gases entered the room in an avalanche, which caused poisoning of the workers who were there. 12 people were killed. The chief engineer of Vodokanal Management Municipal Unitary Enterprise of the city of Taganrog was charged with violating safety rules when conducting work. It was he who was entrusted with ensuring the efficacy of design solutions and monitoring compliance with labor protection rules and regulations. However, he did not provide for this.

Recalling the tragedy in the Zimnyaya Vishnya shopping mall in Kemerovo, which claimed many lives, do you think the results of the investigation are natural?

Alexander Bastrykin: The investigation team carried out large-scale work at a very high level, during which all those whose actions or inaction predetermined the tragedy were brought to criminal responsibility, and also consist in a causal relationship with the consequences of this fire. The investigation proved not only such crimes as the provision of services that do not meet safety requirements, violation of fire safety requirements, and negligence but also corruption, as well as the legalization of funds or other property acquired by a person as a result of committing a crime. In the course of two trials, 12 defendants in the criminal case were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment. The court is still considering the case against three defendants.

Pedophile outlaw

Everyone knows that the Investigative Committee pays great attention to the protection of the rights of minors. What, in your opinion, are the most important “children” problems that need to be solved as soon as possible?

Alexander Bastrykin: First, it is the expansion of forms and legal mechanisms for providing orphans with housing. The Investigative Committee has made a proposal to the legislative authorities on the need to take measures to provide orphans with housing certificates in all regions of the country. I believe that in 2022, the development of legislative proposals in this direction will become a priority.

It is necessary to radically change the approach to fulfilling obligations to provide housing for orphans. This applies not only to the exclusion of cases of providing substandard or uninhabitable housing (in 3Q 2021, the IC investigators took up 267 criminal cases), but also a significant increase in subsidies for its construction and acquisition, taking into account the constant increase in prices.

In addition, the issues of socialization of orphans who have reached the age of 18, including their employment and education, require careful study, which should be jointly solved by the regional authorities, specialists of federal ministries and departments as well as public organizations and charitable foundations.

The circulation of digital currency requires further legal regulation – first of all, mandatory identification of users is necessary

Speaking about legislative innovations in the field of protection of children’s rights, it should be noted that the bill adopted in December last year in the first reading on strengthening criminal liability for repeated crimes against the sexual integrity of children, providing for life imprisonment for repeat pedophiles, will certainly contribute to the prevention of sexual violence against minors. We have repeatedly raised this issue in connection with the increasing cases of such violence.

By the way, it should be noted that the contribution of the Investigative Committee to the formation and development of the legislative framework of the state was positively evaluated by the relevant committees of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

Is it necessary to take the same harsh measures against those adults who involve minors in the criminal world?

Alexander Bastrykin: Definitely. I believe that strengthening criminal responsibility is necessary, first of all, for involving minors in the drug sale (primarily using the Internet), for involvement in uncoordinated public events during which calls are made to commit acts of terrorism and extremist crimes.

The ICR supported the bill on the possibility of giving pedophiles life imprisonment for repeated crimes

And taking into account the recent events in the Republic of Kazakhstan, I believe that in 2022 it is necessary to additionally organize preventive work with youth associations to clarify the negative processes that may arise when young people are involved in extremist activities.

In addition, it is necessary to take additional measures to protect the national information space, including the identification of information materials on the Internet related to the recruitment of citizens, mainly young people, to commit illegal actions.

Recently, a 5-year-old girl was murdered in Kostroma by a pedophile who had already served time for the same crime. What can be done to protect children from such inhumans?

Alexander Bastrykin: The situation when a child is abducted and killed by two men in the daytime is a tragedy. And of course, it is necessary to take adequate measures. The Investigative Committee has supported a bill on the possibility of sentencing pedophiles to life imprisonment for repeated crimes against minors. Such a harsh measure fully meets the situation because this is not the first example when, after being released, pedophiles commit a crime again. In addition, strict control is needed over persons released from prison after committing crimes related to encroachment on the sexual integrity of minors.

During the investigation of the tragic events in Kostroma, another criminal case was initiated for negligence, which is seen in the actions of officials of the City Police Unit No. 2. According to the investigation, they improperly carried out administrative supervision established by a court decision for the released convict. And this aspect is extremely important – crime prevention largely depends on how the system will work.

Closing the door behind the brawler

Of course, children are a socially vulnerable category of the population. Not the only one though. After all, this includes not only children but often women suffering from domestic violence, various kinds of discrimination. How does the Investigative Committee react to this?

Alexander Bastrykin: In our practice, there have been many examples of underestimating the situation when everything started with domestic violence, to which the relevant authorities did not respond properly. This inaction created a sense of impunity and formed the basis for committing more serious crimes.

As an example, we can name the investigation into negligence in Novosibirsk Oblast in connection with the improper performance by a police officer on duty when receiving a message about a woman being physically injured by her spouse. In Moscow, a former police officer was sentenced for neglect of duty in considering the report of Ekaterina Telkina, who was subsequently beaten to death by a roommate. In Kemerovo Oblast, the investigation of a criminal case on the negligence of police officers who ignored the situation with domestic violence against Vera Pekhteleva is being completed. The girl was murdered.

When examining such crime cases, investigators give a legal assessment not only to the actions of a person who is in direct causal connection with tragic consequences. The actions or, conversely, the inaction of police officials, juvenile affairs units, and other state bodies are also evaluated – a criminal case is immediately initiated, its comprehensive independent investigation is ensured. It is mandatory to establish the reasons and conditions that contributed to the commission of crimes. Representations are made to the relevant structures on the elimination of such circumstances, and disciplinary measures are applied to persons who have allowed them.

At the same time, we adhere to the position of the need for regulatory changes to prevent the facts of domestic violence against both women and children.

The Investigative Committee, together with interested state bodies, continues to work on a draft federal law aimed at strengthening responsibility for beatings, as well as a number of other crimes, in particular, for intentional infliction of light injury. And among the determinants, there should be such a qualifying feature as “the commission of a crime against family members and other close persons.”

Speaking about international activities on issues of universally recognized and guaranteed human and civil rights and freedoms, I would like to note this. Last year in Geneva, within the framework of the 80th session of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, the 9th periodic report of the Russian Federation on the implementation of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was considered. The committee’s experts were informed about the progress made in the implementation of the Convention in Russia. Representatives of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation took an active part in the preparation of the report, which received a positive assessment.

Echoes of War

In recent years, the IC has often reported on the investigation of crimes committed against the Soviet people during WWII. Are the IC criminologists collecting evidence of the horrors that were committed in the occupied territories by the Nazi invaders?

Alexander Bastrykin: Work on investigating the facts of mass killings of civilians and prisoners of war on the territory of the USSR within the modern borders of the Russian Federation is progressing in this direction too. 21 criminal cases on the mass destruction of civilians and prisoners of war in the territories of Volgograd, Rostov, Kaluga, Kursk, Leningrad, Novgorod, Orel, Pskov, Smolensk regions, Crimea, Stavropol, and Krasnodar Territories are merged into one proceeding. Last year, studies of newly identified graves of civilians and prisoners of war in the Republic of Crimea, Leningrad, Novgorod, Pskov, and Rostov Oblasts were completed.

Let me remind you that last year, based on the collected irrefutable evidence of the targeted destruction of the civilian population of the Pskov Oblast, the regional court recognized the atrocities of the Nazis and their accomplices in the territory of this region as war crimes and crimes against humanity; the genocide of national and ethnic groups of the USSR population.

The invaders were exterminating the nations of the Soviet Union. They killed children, women, elderly people, organized concentration camps with unbearable conditions for prisoners.

Such conclusions were made, among other things, based on the results of studying a huge array of materials and archival documentation. In total, during the investigation, more than 127 inspections of mass graves of victims of the Nazi invaders were carried out on the territory of the country, the bone remains of more than 1,400 persons were exhumed, at least 200 of them children. Comprehensive forensic medical tests have been appointed for all the recovered remains, of which 904 have been completed. In order to establish the DNA profiles of the discovered bone remains, 13 forensic biological tests were performed. Chemical, art history, and 17 ballistic forensic tests were carried out on the objects found during inspections of burial sites. More than 3,400 people from among the eyewitnesses of the crimes, as well as relatives of the victims, were identified and questioned as witnesses and victims.

The obtained data indicate massive punitive operations carried out by the Nazis.

Currently, the issue of creating an international investigation team and including representatives of the competent authorities of the Federal Republic of Germany is being actively worked out. This format will allow us to move forward in the search for Nazi criminals who escaped responsibility for crimes committed on our territory.

I would like to add that our colleagues from the Republic of Belarus are also investigating the facts of the genocide of the population of Belarus during WWII. Just recently, during a bilateral meeting between representatives of our department and the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Republic of Belarus, agreements were reached on mutual legal assistance in investigating the facts of the extermination of civilians by Nazi criminals and their accomplices in Russia and Belarus during the war. We are working on the creation of a joint investigation team. I am sure that such cooperation will not only restore justice but will also prevent attempts to distort and devalue the historical truth.

Happy holiday

At the end of the meeting, I would like to congratulate you and your subordinates on your professional holiday and wish you strength and patience in the tough fight against crime.

Alexander Bastrykin: Thank you. In turn, I congratulate all officers of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, their family members, veterans of the investigative bodies of the country, our cadets, and pupils on the 11th anniversary of the formation of the Investigative Committee and wish health, happiness, tranquility, and optimism!

I would like to remind readers that it was on January 15, 2011, that took place the actual restoration of the non-departmental model of the organization of the investigation, created by Peter I, whose 350th birthday is celebrated in Russia this year.

In my opinion, today the functioning of the Investigative Committee as an independent body meets the tasks set by the legislator. The head of state also notes this. 11 years ago, obtaining full independence of the investigation seemed to most an ambitious project, many did not believe in the reality of establishing the IC as an independent federal state body. However, now it is possible to speak with confidence about improving the objectivity and quality of the investigation, about effectively ensuring victims’ access to justice and compensation for the damage caused.

As you know, this year, large-scale financing of state targeted programs to improve the quality of life of people and provide assistance to families with children, as well as aimed at developing the economy and ensuring the national security of the country, will remain a priority. Our task is to promptly respond to any criminal challenges that hinder the fulfillment of our goals by timely criminal legal measures.

Of course, we all want to see our country strong and prosperous.

We have enough strength, opportunities, and desire for this.

The morning begins with a newspaper

With the obvious transparency of the Investigative Committee’s activities, the details of the investigation of some of the criminal cases you cited today as examples remained unknown to the public. In your opinion, should citizens know about the work of the investigation and bringing the perpetrators to justice? What are the limits of filling the information space with crime news?

Alexander Bastrykin: In its work, the Investigative Committee strives for maximum transparency and openness, ensuring prompt and continuous communication with citizens. And these are not just words. Information about instructions on crime reports published in the media is published daily in the IC’s social media. The Information Center is open around the clock: within a few hours, any applicant, even those who have filed a complaint in the comments to an Instagram post, receives a response.

Every week I hold a personal reception of citizens. Information about possible violations of the rights of citizens in need of state support is carefully checked. Last year, according to information from the media, more than 2.5 thousand inspections were registered, according to the results of which more than 600 criminal cases were initiated.

Some speculative publications about the work of the law enforcement system are also not ignored, in which information is often presented one-sidedly or even unreliably, and based on particular cases, the authors come to conclusions that do not correspond to reality. With this in mind, as well as the specifics of investigative and operational measures, the dissemination of information often negatively affects the investigation process.

Due to the active development of these sources of information, it is necessary to legislatively determine the legal status of such sites and their authors. After all, their audience coverage is often much larger than that of some mass media. It is logical if the authors of information platforms will be responsible on an equal basis with mass media. Today it fully meets the time demands.

When examining such crime cases, investigators give a legal assessment not only to the actions of a person who is in direct causal connection with tragic consequences. The actions or, conversely, the inaction of police officials, juvenile affairs units, and other state bodies are also evaluated – a criminal case is immediately initiated, its comprehensive independent investigation is ensured. It is mandatory to establish the reasons and conditions that contributed to the commission of crimes. Representations are made to the relevant structures on the elimination of such circumstances, and disciplinary measures are applied to persons who have allowed them.