#AceNewsServices (Exclusive) – RUSSIA(Moscow) – August 18 – President Vladimir Putin has fired 18 top law-enforcement officials in the Investigative Committee, Prosecutor General’s Office and the Interior Ministry Interpreter reported on August 10 2014.
His sudden and secretive action has sparked some theories that it is somehow related to Ukraine — either punishing those who are poorly performing with regard to the aggression against Ukraine, or punishing those involved in a possible plane-downing conspiracy so as to distance himself from it.
It is not likely directly related to Ukraine but is more about Putin reinforcing areas of domestic vulnerability to make him more efficient in general in pursuing both increased authoritarian rule at home and foreign adventures.
Here is the first “Decree on release from post of employees of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation” and the second “Decree on appointments, releases from posts and dismissal from military service of soldiers, officials and workers of some federal state organs”
Most of the dismissals — 11 of the 18 — were made from the Investigative Committee.The Investigative Committee, despite its name sounding like it is a subset of something else, is a relatively new creature in the Russian law-enforcement community, formed in 2011 at a time of great challenge to Putin by massive street demonstrations, to replace the former Prosecutor General’s investigating committee. It is now the leading investigative agency, increasingly taking over powers from the Interior Ministry or police, and might be better understood as more like the old Committee for State Security (KGB) in that it isn’t “just a committee.”
It has been compared to the FBI — but that’s not correct, as it has far more powers and no ministerial or legislative oversight as the FBI does from the Department of Justice and Congress. Its chair, Aleksandr Bastrykin — infamous for making a direct death threat against an investigative journalist — reports directly to the president. It investigates the top cases of the country of political and economic interest to the leadership, and also the top cases of dissent, such as the Bolotnaya Square case in which demonstrators against Putin were sent to prison for many years.
So first, let’s be clear: none of these people are on the Magnitsky List of gross human rights offenders. And they don’t seem to be the villains of exposé blogs by Alexei Navalny or Boris Nemtsov or other opposition leaders ferreting out information about corruption among top officials with their fancy cars and real estate abroad. This needs more research, but these people don’t seem to be fired for corruption or abuse as we understand it.
Second, as Putin gave no explanation for these dismissals, there has been speculation particularly from Ukrainian sources that this mass purge may be related to either plans to invade Ukraine or even the conspiracy theory mounted recently by the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) that MH17 was shot down by mistake not by rebels thinking it was a Ukrainian cargo plane (of the type they’d shot down before), but shot down by mistake by Russia — which had wanted to shoot down its own Aeroflot airliner as a “false-flag” operation to provide a pretext for an invasion of Ukraine. (For the record, the Russia’s State Civil Aviation Administration, which theoretically would have to be involved in such sabotage, is under the Ministry of Transport, which is separate from the Interior Ministry.)
While it’s always possible some of these colonels, lieutenants and generals in law-enforcement but not the army are indirectly related to the Ukraine operation or a plane conspiracy, a direct Ukraine-related explanation doesn’t seem likely for a number of reasons:
By Catherine A Fitzpatrick @ The Interpreter