Kremlin Bolstering Joint Patrols
MOSCOW (AP) _ The Kremlin is increasing by more than 50 percent its new joint military- police patrols, which have detained about 5,000 people nationwide since they were launched last week, officials said today.
The announcement came the day after the Kremlin widened its law-and-order crackdown with the announcement of strong new measures to fight organized crime.
The joint patrols, however, have been viewed by reformers as a sign of creeping dictatorship.
In Monday’s decree, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev ordered the creation of a new ″main directorate″ within the Interior Ministry to fight organized crime, corruption and drug dealing.
Other recent Kremlin measures include a crackdown on the Baltic republics that has left 20 people dead and a presidential decree giving law enforcement agencies sweeping search-and-seizure powers.
In its announcement today, the Interior Ministry said the number of joint patrols will be increased from 1,740 to 2,636 nationwide. A spokesman said that patrols have detained 5,000 people since they were began Friday.
Spokesman Vladimir Yanchenkov said most of the arrests were for petty crimes such as theft and ″cases of street hooliganism.″
The joint patrols were ordered by Defense Minister Dmitri Yazov and Interior Minister Boris Pugo last month. Police tried to reassure the media and the public that only criminals had anything to fear. But many officials in the Soviet republics said the patrols were not needed.
The new directorate announced Monday, together with the KGB, should ″concentrate on uncovering, halting and investigating the activities of criminal groups that commit the most dangerous crimes and have inter-republic and international ... connections,″ the decree said.
It also gave the national government and the 15 republics two months to form ″inter-regional and regional Interior Ministry troops to fight organized crime.″
The troops will be subordinate to the new directorate, according to the decree, announced on ″Vremya,″ the nationwide evening television news program.
In another development, a leading entrepreneur facing criminal charges that supporters call political said he was barred from broadcasting an apology for accusing Gorbachev of a retreat from democracy, a news agency reported today.
″Vremya″ said the Interior Ministry ″has brought a criminal case″ against Artyom Tarasov and employees of the foreign trade company Istok, or Source, which he heads.
It said the reputed millionaire and his employees were charged with ″extortion of huge sums of money, and of finance and hard currency machinations.″ The program showed consumer electronics, icons and weapons allegedly seized at the company’s warehouse.
The reformist daily Komsomolskaya Pravda claimed last week that the criminal investigation of Tarasov was an attempt to discredit the Russian republic’s government and the growth of private business.
Tarasov is a member of the Russian legislature and has advised the country’s best-known reformer, Boris Yeltsin, who is president of the Russian Federation. He is also one of the Soviet Union’s best-known and most successful entrepreneurs.
″Artyom Tarasov is a purely criminal (character) mixed up in politics,″ A.M. Biryukov, a senior Interior Ministry investigator, told ″Vremya.″
Istok, founded in 1987, has several subsidiaries involved in trading Soviet goods with the West and marketing Western goods in the Soviet Union.
In recent newspaper interviews, Tarasov accused Gorbachev of leading a retreat from democracy and secretly agreeing to sell the disputed Kuril Islands to Japan for billions of dollars.
Tarasov said his comments were his private view and that he was denied access to television to make an apology, demanded by Gorbachev, the independent news agency Postfactum reported.
He said the deputy director of the state-run television ″gave the order to the editor to cancel my interview on the phone in my presence. He motivated it by saying what I was offering could not be called an apology.″