Without much public resonance at the federal level, major cases against two “organized criminal groups” are being investigated
in Rostov Region (this is how the investigators are qualifying them) – one into the police and the other into the judiciary.
There are dozens of suspects. FSB and Investigative Committee brigades from Moscow are conducting searches and other actions related to the investigations, while arrests have been made.
A case against a local Ministry of Internal Affairs/police is not unusual in itself, but here an unusually wide net has been cast, ensnarling low- and mid-level officers, as well as a colonel.Routine repression
Repression against the heads of regional security and law enforcement agencies has been going on for a long time, becoming systematic
after 2014. Just from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, where it all started in 2014, about a dozen regional heads have been detained and arrested over the years, as well as quite a few from the Federal Penitentiary Service and the Ministry of Emergency Situations, a couple – though at the highest levels – from the Investigative Committee, and even from the Federal Protective Service (FSO).
Rostov Region was no exception: there were regular purges and replacements of heads of federal agencies based in the region. For example, 2020 was called “prokuroropad
,” as several high-ranking prosecutors were fired at one time.
But repression in the judicial corporation is rather unique. Until now, regional heads of courts were never gone after – if they were removed, it was done quietly.
In Rostov Region, the entire top echelon of the courts has already been arrested, including Yelena Zolotareva, the chair of the Regional Court since 2015, her deputy Tatyana Yurova, the chair of the regional Council of Judges, and Andrei Roschevsky, the head of the Regional Department of Justice. Three dozen people who worked in the judicial system are under investigation, which is being handled by the head of the Main Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee Denis Kolesnikov. From the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the investigation is being carried out
by officials of the Main Department for Economic Security and Combating Corruption. From the FSB, it is Department M, which deals with corruption in law enforcement agencies.Stalinist-like rotation
The mechanism of horizontal rotation of federal officials around the regions – a page out of the Stalinist playbook – has been restored and reconfigured by Putin. Its essence is that “controllers” who look after a region from different federal agencies are regularly rotated so that they do not get too close with whom they are controlling. Since 2012, a law has been in force that the heads of territorial divisions of executive agencies, including the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Prosecutor’s Office and many others that carry out control and supervisory functions, are subject to rotation every three to five years.
Of all the “federal generals” in the regions, judges were the last to be rotated – after the Ministry of Internal Affairs, prosecutors and the Investigative Committee, which had been regularly reshuffled in all regions. Recall that at the federal level, the heads of both the Supreme Court and the Constitutional Court – Vyacheslav Lebedev and Valery Zorkin – are the most veteran heads of state institutions. The former took his post under Gorbachev in 1989 and the latter under Yeltsin in 1991.Court “purge” as evidence of shift to war footing
FSB operatives, along with officials from the central office of the Investigative Committee, have named 32 people suspected of corruption – the Rostov judicial system represents, judging by the scale of the investigation and in the investigators’ own words, an organized criminal group.
Besides the detained Zolotareva and Yurova, seven more judges are in Moscow as part of the investigation. A dozen criminal cases
have already been launched under Criminal Code articles on fraud, bribery and abuse of power.
At this point, there is little concrete information on these cases, though it seems it is the corruption that is typical in and widespread across the courts. That said, there is little doubt that the judges did corrupt things. The Kremlin has corrupted the entire judiciary, and it would be strange to expect that judges, who are constantly following the political wishes of the Kremlin, as well as those of the FSB and various bosses, would not look out for themselves as well.
It is very possible that the corruption in Rostov Region did not go beyond the norm for this institution.