Tatyana Stanovaya: «High-Profile Arrests at the Investigation Committee: Symptoms of Systemic Problems in Russia’s Security Agency Structures”, Politkom.ru , 25 Jul 16

A new war€ is unfolding within the security structures: on 19 July, employees of the FSB Economic Security Service carried out searches and arrested high-ranking representatives of the Russian Investigation Committee. Seven people were arrested. They are all accused of receiving bribes for releasing the associates of the well-known thief-in-law Shakro Molodoy.
The men arrested include Mikhail Maksimenko, the chief of the Investigation Committee’s main administration for interdepartmental cooperation and own security, his deputy Aleksandr Lamonov, as well as Denis Nikandrov, the first deputy head of the main investigation administration of the Russian Investigation Committee for Moscow. Vladimir Markin, the Investigation Committee’s official spokesman, stated after a 24-hour silence that the Investigation Committee’s leadership was ashamed of its colleagues and he promised that the “purge” would continue. The FBS requested copies of all of the criminal cases that Nikandrov had investigated for study.
Employees of the “M” administration of the FSB Economic Security Service [SEB], who are employed in counterintelligence activities in the law-enforcement bodies, carried out the current operation, Kommersant wrote. Note that SEB has recently changed leadership: the service is headed by Sergey Korolev, the former head of the FSB own security administration [USB], while Yuriy Yakovlev who had occupied the post of head has retired. The influential Gen Oleg Feoktistov is expected to possibly become deputy head of this administration.
According to media reports, a conflictual relationship had evolved between the SEB and the USB, and the heads of the USB managed to oust their competitors. Following the outcome of the audits carried out at the SEB, Viktor Voronin, the head of the “K” administration dealing with counterintelligence support in the credit and financial sphere, resigned. The heads of the “P” administration (it deals with counterintelligence support for in the fight against crime in the industrial sphere) and the “T” administration (transport), generals Lazerev and Chernyshev, also tendered their resignations. Ivan Tkachev, the head of the sixth service, which is part of the USB, was supposed to become head of the “K” administration (there is not yet any confirmation of this information); his deputy Igor Demin was at the center of a high-profile episode in 2014 when the managers of the Interior Ministry’s GUEBiPK [main administration for economic security and counteracting corruption], headed by police Gen Denis Sugrobov, were arrested. The latter is accused of inciting Demin to take a bribe. Note: it is Ivan Tkachev’s sixth service that is conducting the criminal case against Kirov Oblast Governor Nikita Belykh.
Moreover, according to Kommersant’s information, there were also problems within the SEB itself. Thus, for example, there have been persistent rumors about confrontation between employees of the “K” administration and colleagues from the “M” administration. The latter are busy “purging the ranks” in the security structures, and for this reason are close to the USB in terms of the nature of their service.
Thus, an internal conflict in the FSB, which ended in favor of the own security administration, was the backdrop to the current arrests in the Russian Investigation Committee. And it is the SEB, now under new leadership, that also initiated the proceedings against Aleksandr Bastrykin’s subordinates.
The main detainees in this campaign are Mikhail Maksimenko, the head of the Investigation Committee’s main administration for interdepartmental cooperation and own security, and his deputy Aleksandr Lamonov. Maksimenko managed a key administration in the Russian Investigation Committee and was considered a figure close to Bastrykin (he was once one of his personal bodyguards). The main investigation administration (GSU) of the Investigation Committee for Moscow has also been dealt a blow. The FSB detained Denis Nikandrov, the first deputy head of the GSU (moreover, Aleksandr Drymanov, the head of the GSU, accused his subordinates via the media of pressure, distancing himself from the situation and writing a resignation letter).
One of the youngest generals in the Russian Investigation Committee (born in 1979), Nikandrov, according to Kommersant’s information, was previously close to the FSB USB, which assisted in his career advancement. He started his career in the investigative bodies of Volgograd Oblast where in the 2000s he investigated cases against Volgograd Mayor Yevgeniy Ishchenko and Mikhail Tsukruk, the head of the Oblast main administration for internal affairs. Ishchenko was accused of abuse of office and illegal involvement in entrepreneurial activity. In the end some of the charges against Ishchenko were lifted and in 2007 he was sentenced to one year in prison (which he had already served in preliminary detention) for illegal entrepreneurial activity and possession of ammunition (this charge was not there originally, it was added later). In May 2007, Tsukruk was detained on suspicion of accepting bribes, and abuse of office. In 2008, the court sentenced Tsukruk to a two year suspended term for abuse of office. It is not hard to note that in both cases the investigation and the prosecution failed to prove their guilt in committing serious criminal offenses and the defendants were found guilty on “additional” charges. In such cases, these are “attached” to the main charge so as to achieve a conviction anyway, and to record the case as being to the credit of the investigator who led it.
After the arrest of Nikandrov, Ishchenko also recalled in an interview to the V1.ru website that the former “did not disdain the Chekist [security service] methods of the Stalinist era”. He said Nikandrov used methods involving psychological and even physical pressure to extract evidence. “They get the person up at six in the morning, put him in a prison truck where it is cold in the winter and hot and humid in the summer, and take him to the investigations department. They hold him there for a long time to ask just one question, the answer to which the investigator has known for a long time, and as a result the person gets to his cell when it is already night. And in the morning – it starts all over again.”
Despite all of this, Nikandrov moved to the central apparatus of the Russian Investigation Committee in 2008, and shortly afterwards became an investigator for particularly important cases under the chairman of the Russian Investigation Committee, and was then appointed first deputy head of the main administration of the Russian Investigation Committee for Moscow. Moreover, the appointment only took place in May. Nikandrov is known for having conducted at one time the case against Bastrykin’s “right-hand man”, Dmitriy Dovgiy, with whom the head of the Investigation Committee started an acute public conflict in 2009 (which made Nikandrov particularly close to Bastrykin), he took part in the investigation of the “second YUKOS case, and the cases relating to the underground casinos near Moscow. All of this was done in close cooperation with the FSB’s USB. It provides operational support for the work of investigators at the Russian Investigation Committee. So it was always thought that the FSB’s USB and the Russian Investigation Committee worked in tandem.
That is why the arrests of the high-ranking representatives of the Investigation Committee were a surprise. The “M” administration of the FSB’s SEB, which is close to the USB, thought that Bastrykin’s subordinates might have facilitated the release of the crime boss Andrey Kochuykov (nicknamed the Italian) and a member of his team, Eduard Romanov, for five million dollars (of which one million was received). Both were detained, and later arrested as well, in December last year by the Presnenskiy district court after a shootout at the Elements restaurant on Rochdelskaya Street in Moscow (they had supposedly come to “take away” the business for a debt, but they met with resistance). However, on 14 June the court first released them and then the same day another court arrested them within the framework of a special operation, this time conducted by the FSB (the suspects did not manage to spend a single minute at liberty). According to the FSB’s information, the bribe was handed over by the notorious thief-in-law Zakhariy Kalashov (Shakro Molodoy) via his acquaintance Dmitriy Zvontsev. Moreover, according to Rosbalt, the money was handed to Nikandrov and the latter knew that the FSB was aware of what was happening, but this did not stop him. According to Rosbalt’s information, the Russian FSB tried to influence the investigators and the latter started to hide the case files. The investigators of the main investigation administration of the Russian Federation Investigation Committee for Moscow also stopped giving any instructions to detectives from the Russian FSB “M” administration who provided operational support within the framework of the investigation. Then the Moscow Prosecutor’s Office intervened in the case, requesting that the “Italian’s case” be checked. In response, the main investigation administration and the investigative department for Moscow’s central administrative district started to put the blame on one another, hiding who actually had the case files. It is now expected that the criminal cases may also affect high-ranking employees of the investigative department for the central administrative district.
The Prestupnaya Rossiya [Criminal Russia] website’s source reported that employees of the FSB “M” administration had started to work on Maksimenko and Nikandrov. And when the material had been collected they presented it to Aleksandr Bastrykin. According to the Criminal Procedure Code, only the head of the Investigation Committee or his deputies can instigate criminal cases against the heads of regional investigation bodies and employees of departments equivalent to them. Aleksandr Bastrykin was essentially forced to sign the resolution. After this, the chairman of the Investigation Committee was supposed to hand over the investigation of the case to one of his subdivisions, but the Prosecutor General’s Office bequeathed it to the FSB, fearing a conflict of interests at the Investigation Committee.
Hence one of the main intrigues: to what extent was Bastrykin himself aware of what was happening, and what was his relationship with Maksimenko and Nikandrov like. In the current situation it is likely that this is a matter of a strike being made on the inner circle of the head of the Investigation Committee. However, so far this strike is publicly bypassing the head of the Investigation Committee: the FSB official report states that the investigations against the committee employees were carried out “by agreement” with the head of the Investigation Committee (not the friendliest wording). At the same time, a report appeared in Kommersant, according to which it was at Bastrykin’s initiative that the criminal case against Maksimenko and Nikandrov was instigated, which looks more like an attempt by the Investigation Committee “to save face”.
The heads of the Investigation Committee leaders were completely bewildered by what occurred. Vladimir Markin, the Russian Federation Investigation Committee’s spokesman, who always criticizes those suspected of corruption fast as lightening and harshly, this time reacted only 24 hours later, stating that the criminal case against the high-ranking employees of the Russian Federation Investigation Committee cast a shadow over the entire department, but the Investigation Committee’s self-cleaning work would be continued. “I am ashamed and sorry about what has happened with our so-called colleagues,” he said. The decision was probably taken not to touch Bastrykin as “the sovereign’s man”, however the entire episode has definitely been a very serious reputational blow to the position of the head of the Investigation Committee.
All of this draws attention to at least three systemic problems. Firstly, the institutional place of the Investigation Committee within the system of the regime’s law-enforcement bodies. The confrontation between the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Investigation Committee, which began immediately after investigations were removed from the bodies under the Prosecutor’s Office, is continuing. The relationship between the Investigation Committee and the FSB, which provides operational support for the activities of Bastrykin’s subordinates, is ambiguous as well. The Investigation Committee is often criticized for the lack of professionalism of its investigators (especially since Bastrykin himself did not have much experience of work in the investigative bodies before his current appointment, apart from a short period immediately after he graduated). The department is regularly shaken by corruption and internal scandals.
At the same time, Bastrykin himself has tried to find a special place for his department in the system of power: for example, it is the Investigation Committee that dealt with the criminal cases against the opposition (the “Bolotnoye case”, the cases against Aleksey Navalnyy). At the same time, to strengthen his own position Bastrykin has started to actively promote conceptual points relating to state policy. In a recent sensational article that became a striking example of “law-enforcement ideology”, the ideas that are traditional for the siloviki, of revanchism, anti-Westernism and anti-liberalism, the introduction of censorship, the establishment of a state ideology, and allocating a privileged role to the security bodies, were emphasized.
Simultaneously, the particularly marked role of the Investigation Committee over the past two years in the fight against corruption should be stressed: it is the Investigation Committee that took an aggressive politicized stance in relation to the high-profile cases against the former governors of Sakhalin and Kamchatka Oblasts and the Republic of Komi, and the mayor of Vladivostok, Igor Pushkarev. Vladimir Markin did not just transmit the position of the Investigation Committee but was a brilliant media player, openly intimidating the bureaucracy with possibility of criminal prosecution. However, virtually all of the above cases were investigated using “hands” from the FSB’s USB.
The result is that the Investigation Committee does not yet exist as an independent body inside the system of law-enforcement bodies: from the point of view of operational support, the Investigation Committee is critically dependent on the FSB.
Secondly, there is the institutional problem of the lack of control over the FSB own security administration, which the media has written about constantly, and which has also been complained about via numerous “leaks” from the “victims” of the USB in other security structures. During the Soviet era, a special subdivision of the Prosecutor General’s Office “kept an eye on” the KGB ninth administration (the current USB). The USB is now effectively completely unmonitored. “The FSB’s USB is the most powerful structure in the law-enforcement system today with its own special forces, numerous agents, and a huge archive of compromising information about officials, security officers, and businessmen. The instructions of the Chekist secret agents are carried out first… At the same time, as people in the know say, there is simply no-one to monitor this overgrown and extremely secretive structure: on the right is the Prosecutor’s Office, tormented by scandals, on the left is the loyal State Duma, and above there are the heirs of the Lubyaka,” Novaya Gazeta wrote in 2011.
In 2007, the USB was criticized in the context of the famous Tri Kita case, which led to the infamous war between the Federal Protective Service and the FSB (the Prosecutor General’s Office was on the side of the Federal Protective Service). At the time all of this almost led to a major purge of the security bodies, and the head of the USB, Aleksandr Kupryazhkin, almost lost his post (like, incidentally, other high-ranking generals as well). However, the FSB soon went on the counter-attack: under the leadership of Kupryazhkin’s deputy, Oleg Feoktistov, a criminal case was initiated against Gen Bulbov – the right-hand man of Federal Drug Control Service head Viktor Cherkesov (it was allegedly Bulbov who organized the wiretapping of the FSB generals). At that time the USB was being “closely watched” by competitors from Putin’s inner circle, but the FSB won the war, completely routing its “opponent”.
In 2011, compromising material was published on the Internet about the head of the USB, Kupryazhkin, and Feoktistov, who were accused of providing protection for a business and creating a corrupt system, which allegedly also included Andrey Khorev, an Interior Ministry general and the first deputy head of the Interior Ministry’s economic security department. Shortly afterwards, Khorev (incidentally he was named as a man from the team of Yevgeniy Shkolov, a current presidential aide) was removed from his post, but Kupryazhkin was promoted – to deputy head of the FSB. Feoktistov kept his post. The place of head of the USB was taken by Sergey Korolev whose career is linked to the name of former Defense Minister Anatoliy Serdyukov. It was Korolev who at that time also achieved the “neutralization” of the “decision makers” from the Interior Ministry.
Finally, an attack was made on the USB a third time at the end of 2013 by the heads of the Interior Ministry’s GUEBiPK headed by police general Denis Sugrobov, who together with his subordinates “worked on” the leaders of the administration (Yevgeniy Shkolov, who was in charge of Sugrobov’s work, de facto kept an eye on he USB). However, after the attempt to incite Igor Demin, the deputy head of the sixth service of the FSB’s USB, to take a bribe, Sugrobov was arrested. At that time the Interior Ministry’s GUEBiPK in its previous guise was also effectively “routed”.
As we can see, the might of the USB provokes constant conflicts, however, attempts to attack lead to those who initiated them being routed.
Hence the conceptual problem emerging is the regime’s general approach towards constructing the system of security agency bodies. Vladimir Putin, who has placed the figures he most trusts in the key posts, regularly faces inter-clan law-enforcement wars that ultimately damage the state. The system is based on competition that is set out at the start, and which instead of checks and balances incites mutual surveillance and the use of compromising material. On the one hand, it is easier for the president to control the security officials in this way. However, on the other hand, regular mutual revelations affect the reputation of the regime, reduce the effectiveness of professional activities, and contribute to the flourishing of corruption. All of this is on top of the overall increase in the political influence of all the security agency bodies, which in the context of “military logic” and geopolitical crisis are not only competing among themselves but are also extending their prerogatives in relation to society, businesses, and civilian spheres of activity, which is promoting the growth of authoritarian tendencies within the modern Russian regime.

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