Staunton, March 13 – The struggle against extremism and terrorism in Daghestan has transformed the interior ministry in Daghestan, Russia’s most unstable republic, into “a profitable business,” in which bribery, theft, and other forms of abuse have flourished, according to past and present police officials there.
Indeed, they say, the struggle against these evils has become a cover for such activities and that, along with the large payoffs that are going up the chain of command, has made officials in both Makhachkala and Moscow extremely reluctant to take any actions against those involved even when complaints are lodged.
The situation has become so bad, journalist Irina Gordiyenko suggests in an article in “Novaya gazeta” last week, that there is now a symbiotic relationship between corruption and extremism, one that forces young Daghestanis to choose becoming policemen or joining the militants (novayagazeta.ru/politics/57084.html).
Gordiyenko begins her report by saying that “the Daghestani police have begun to speak publically about what is happening [in police organs] under the cover of the struggle with terrorism,” a mix of bribery, thefts, and official abuse that involve the entire bureaucratic structure there.
Despite the willingness of Daghestani police to talk about these things, the central staff of the Interior Ministry in Moscow is “extremely skeptical” about such “loud declarations” and is not now “prepared to hurry with conclusions,” an attitude that of course allows the abuses that some Daghestanis are engaged in to continue.
Two weeks ago, independent journalists in Moscow organized a press conference in “an effort to attract the attention of the federal authorities to the pathetic position within the Daghestani MVD.” Among those taking part was Magomed Shamilov, the head of the police union in Daghestan.
Saying that he had no desire to “wash dirty laundry in public,” Shamilov said that he and others concerned about corruption in the Daghestani police currently had no choice but to go public because officers have not had any success in solving the problems on their own. And consequently, they are appealing to Moscow to take action.
“Before the [Sochi] Olympiad,” there is still a chance to correct the situation, but if that does not happen, he said, it will be beyond hope, because “in the most unstable republic in the Russian Caucasus will revolt the entire system that is [ostensibly] called to struggle with those now in a revolt, and a large part of its staff will go over to those opposing the authorities.”
The corrupt profitability of working in the police as part of the anti-terrorism effort is reflected in the bribes young Daghestanis are prepared to join its ranks, Abdulkadyr Bekmurzayev, the former commander of a mobile unit in Khasavyurt, says, with those wishing to join the ranks paying 300,000 rubles (1000 US dollars) and those seeking officer ran willing to pay up to 700,000 rubles (2300 US dollars).
Those who buy their way in quickly make that up by corruption, other officers say, and their superiors profit as well. Fifty percent of what those in the ranks take in, other police officials say, goes to commanders, and the latter thus have a real incentive to look the other way whatever their subordinates do, especially when the amounts of money involved are so large.
Sometimes corruption takes other forms, police officials say, including double billing for work never performed or covering for those who are involved in the illegal trafficking of alcohol and other goods. And with corruption, they say, come other problems that no one in the chain of command will address.
These include tortures and even murders and the retention of funds that are supposed to be paid to the families of victims. That culture of violence and corruption means, Gordiyenko said, that “young people [there] do not have a real choice: they can either join the militants or the police,” because both are involved in illegal activities.
Salikh Gadzhiyev, the deputy head of the administration of internal affairs of the Republic of Daghestan, says he is prepared to bring anyone suspected of such activities to justice. “But the republic leadership is not prepared” to do so. And that attitude extends upwards into the North Caucasus Federal District, and perhaps to Moscow as well.
Indeed, the Russian MVD told Gordiyenko that they were looking into the matter and would “report about the results” of the center’s investigation, a statement that does not lead one to conclude that Moscow is prepared to take steps against anyone in authority who can claim to be involved in the counter-terrorist effort, whatever his crimes may be.