General’s sweeping purge in Rostov Region
Six month before the appointment of Andrei Larionov the Head of the General Administration for the Rostov Region of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Kolokoltsev, the Minister of Internal Affairs, promised that the people of Russia will see positive changes in the Ministry within the next few years.
Legacy of Lapin
The situation in the Rostov region was very far from ideal: the federal highway M4 connecting the rich southern part of Russia with Moscow goes through the region; millions of tons of commercial cargo freights, including criminal shipments – illegal alcohol, smuggled goods, drugs – are transported by this motorway. It was an open secret who provided cover for this illegal flow. Shady businesses were controlled by criminal groups who, in turn, shared their profits with local law enforcement authorities. This collaboration between the criminal world and enforcement agencies even had its own name – the Rostov scheme – and was based on total corruption. Together with the Krasnodar region, the Rostov region was one of the most corrupt parts of Russia.
The media was silenced by fear. The General Administration for the Rostov Region of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation was controlled by a team headed by the General Lapin who arrived to Don from Khabarovsk; the team had a bad reputation among journalists, so no one risked to challenge it. According to the CrimeRussia source, an analysis of the situation with the MIA General Administration for Rostov Region performed by the collegium of the Ministry of Internal Affairs has revealed large-scale offences and criminal schemes involving local law enforcement authorities; urgent actions were required. The total corruption, extortion, provision of cover for criminal groups – this was just a small part of the general picture. The CrimeRussia source has reported a situation when Novaya Gazeta Yug (New Newspaper South) obtained results of an audit in the MIA General Administration for the Rostov Region. The report described violations so outrageous, that it was decided to classify this information to avoid mass public indignation. As a result, that issue of Novaya Gazeta Yug was not published, and the sensitive information was removed from the Internet.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs had to take urgent actions to improve the reputation of its regional General Administration, and in the beginning of 2013 major general (at that moment) Andrei Petrovich Larionov was appointed the head of the Rostov region police. Minister Kolokoltsev has chosen Larionov for his extensive experience: Larionov used to be the Head of the Russian MIA General Administration for the Ulyanovsk Region and was one of the creators of the Internal Security Service in the Tomsk region.
Intellectual general Larionov had nothing to do with tough Marshall Zhukov – however, his first efforts to bring discipline in the MIA General Administration and Rostov region as a whole caused a barrage of criticism in some local media. The unmasking of rogue cops was interpreted as elimination of professionals; arrests of corrupt officials had been labeled attempts to ruin the reputation of the region. Every routine audit in the MIA General Administration was presented as preparations for his dismissal. According to the CrimeRussia source, the information war against the new head of the regional police was coordinated from a single center and financed by those making millions on smuggling and corruption.
Larionov once told media that he had allocated three years for himself to sort out the mess, first of all – in the police ranks.
But it was difficult to put things to order quickly and efficiently in an organization where the system of charging illegal levies had been built for tens of years. This was especially true for the Administration of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate. Proximity to the Ukrainian border determined some specific features of shady operations performed by its management. Smuggling opportunities and criminal groups from the neighboring state allowed to make billions.
It is not a coincidence that first high-profile scandals after the arrival of Larionov were related to the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate. An assault on Sergey Morgachev, the Head of the General Administration of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate, in the beginning of 2014 was widely publicized and hit hard the reputation of general Larionov. The crime was solved quickly: the attackers have been caught in 2.5 weeks. All of them were Dagestan natives from Astrakhan; they were retained specifically to beat Morgachev up. Their client was arrested together with them – Artur Shakhbazyan, a 30-year-old probationer in the Administration of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate of the MIA General Administration for the Rostov Region, paid half-million rubles to the thugs to cripple his boss. On the very first questioning, under the pressure of hard evidence, Shakhbazyan confessed: he was not the real client, but just an intermediary. He received instructions from Aleksander Otsimik, the Deputy Head of the Administration of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate of the MIA General Administration for the Rostov Region. On April 13, 2014 colonel Otsimik was arrested and remains in detention to the present time.
General Larionov got a scolding, but managed to retain his post.
Nikolai Mkhitaryan, Dmitry Tarasenko
Another federal-level scandal occurred in the beginning of 2016. 249 firearms had been stolen from the Operative Unit № 3 of the Russian MIA Administration for the City of Rostov; some of these weapons have been later found in a car, in which criminal lord Nikolay ‘Tolsty’ (Fat) Mkhitaryan and Dmitry Tarasenko, the Head of the Russian MIA Administration for the City of Rostov, were travelling together. On March 7, 2016, during a joint operation of the MIA General Administration for Krasnodar Krai and Road Patrol Service, two vehicles have been pulled over: a GAS 21 with license plate М866СР 93 driven by some A.V. Frolov and a Range Rover with license plate А 181СА driven by Nikolai Mkhitaryan, born 1978. The spice of the situation is that the SUV passenger seat was occupied by Dmitry Tarasenko, the Head of the Russian MIA Administration for the City of Rostov. Some weapons stolen from the police operative unit – a 9 mm Izh pistol, 2 Reck mod cobra guns, 7.62 mm AK 47 machine gun, and 2 Saiga rifles – have been discovered in the SUV trunk. A special commission of 8 officers has been dispatched from Moscow to Rostov after the emergency. Simultaneously media have published eye-popping information that the firearms, in fact, were not stolen from the Operative Unit № 3 of the Kirovsky District of the City of Rostov, but purposively given to local criminal groups. Allegedly, some people were cruising around the Krasnodar krai in two vehicles and collecting the earlier-distributed guns. This was one of the most high-profile media scandals of the year. However, the journalists haven’t noticed one important detail: the crime was solved by the local police. A large-scale inspection from Moscow, that finished its work on June 1, 2016, has taken this fact into consideration. Another attempt to compromise the Head of the Russian MIA General Administration for the Rostov Region has failed.
Firearms found in the car driven by Nikolai Mkhitaryan
The CrimeRussia source reported at that time that Larionov had faced a real possibility to become the whipping boy: his enemies decided to help him to lose his post using this incident to discredit the regional police chief. However, Larionov managed to keep his position again – while Tarasenko was suspended. After the firearms scandal, 10 officers of the Operative Unit № 3 of the Kirovsky District of the City of Rostov have been dismissed, 12 received warning of incomplete suitability for the position, and four – severe reprimand.
The firmness of general Larionov can be explained by real successes of the MIA General Administration in its struggle against rogue cops and the overall performance of police in such an uneasy region adjacent to Ukraine. During the 3.5 years of Larionov’s work in the region, the MIA General Administration for the Rostov Region has achieved top crime solving rates in comparison with other MIA Administrations of Russia. The CrimeRussia source has recently provided some exclusive information: an in-house sweeping purge has started in the MIA General Administration for the Rostov Region: 115 criminal cases have been recently initiated against 81 police officers; 30 criminal cases are already in court.
The majority of offenders used to serve in the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate. Thanks to the sweeping purge, the M4 motorway has got a surprisingly low number of complaints from drivers this year. The MIA General Administration for the Rostov Region was the first in Russia to stop using radar guns – which has drastically increased the effectiveness of anti-corruption measures in the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate.
In the end of January 2016, Tigran Bugayan, a regimental commander in the patrol and inspection service and longtimer in the law enforcement, was arrested. According to the official information, Bugayan was caught red-handed, when accepting a bribe of 1.5 million rubles during a joint operation of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) and police. The investigation believes that the regimental commander had requested this sum to close a criminal case. The Head of the Criminal Investigation Police of the town of Shakhti was prosecuted for taking a bribe for non-initiation of a criminal case for raping. After the CrimeRussia publication, Lores Vartanyan, the Head of the Criminal Investigation Police of the MIA Department of the Egorlyk District and nephew of a former regional Minister of Transport Dzhivan Vartanyan, was dismissed from the police. The ex-policeman used to improve the crime solving rate by planting drugs to local residents and then contacting their relatives and offering to settle the issue. A criminal case has been initiated against Vartanyan under part 3 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Swindling committed by a person through his official position).
A Senior State Inspector of the Interdistrict Registration and Examination Department of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate will be prosecuted for illegal registration of vehicles. An investigation is ongoing against 2 State Road Traffic Safety Inspectors who became famous throughout the country after an operative video record was uploaded on YouTube.
Officer Pak, a Lead Investigator in the Department for Economic Security and Combatting the Corruption of the Matveevo-Kurgan District of the Rostov Region, was caught in wrongdoing.
And this is only a small part of the huge work currently being performed to purge the ranks of the Don police. The General Administration Management has introduced a requirement for police officers to report bribe-giving attempts. Following this instruction, the officers have reported 106 such incidents since the beginning of 2016 for the total amount of 1,146,000 rubles. There were 147 reports in the last year for the total of 1,500,000 rubles.
In the recent months, Larionov has instructed the Department of Internal Security of the MIA General Administration for the Rostov Region to identify officers who had joined the police ranks illegally. Old personal files are being reviewed; an investigation against 10 officers is ongoing. In particular, the CrimeRussia source told that an audit is currently being conducted against E. Utesov, an officer in the Department for Combatting Organized Crime of the Town of Taganrog, who is suspected of falsification of a court order dismissing criminal prosecution against him and fabrication of facts that had allowed him to illegally enroll in police.
The CrimeRussia will continue following-up on the self-purification of the Rostov region police.