Crossing Continents
Crossing Continents
BBC Radio 4
Series focusing on foreign affairs issues
The Primorsky Partisans
28 minutes Posted Nov 25, 2010 at 3:28 am.
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    Show notes
    Russia's police are out of control. They are often referred to as "werewolves in epaulettes" because so many officers prey on the public rather than protect them. Even Prime Minister Vladimir Putin complains about the lawlessness of the country's law enforcers. He once said upstanding citizens cross to the other side of the street as soon as they see a man in uniform.
    The crimes police commit range from bribe taking to kidnapping, drug trafficking, torture and murder. This brutality is accompanied by corruption. Illegal raids of businesses by police are commonplace as well as the subsequent jailing of their owners on false charges. Victims of police abuse are often helpless in a system of cover-ups long established in the law enforcement forces.
    Earlier this year, a group of six young men in Primorye, the remote Maritime region of Russia's Far East, decided to fight back. They declared a guerrilla war against the police with the sole purpose of killing as many cops as they could. Their attacks have included shooting of traffic policemen on roads, raiding a village police station and stabbing to death the officer on duty. Bare-chested and brandishing pistols, the 'Primorsky Partisans' posted videos on the internet to explain the motives behind their actions.
    This summer the gang's exploits gripped the Russian public's imagination. Many people in the Far East and beyond supported them: a poll on Ekho Moskvy radio indicated that 60-75 percent of listeners sympathised with the "young Robin Hoods" and would offer them help.
    In June the authorities launched a manhunt with tanks and helicopters. Eventually two members of the group died in a shoot-out with police while the rest were captured and are now behind bars awaiting trial.
    The local government of the Maritime Region is jittery about the case and is reluctant to comment. Local police and the prosecutor's office dismiss them as gangsters. Lucy Ash visits Kirovskiy, the home village of the young men, to investigate what drove the men to act in such an extreme way.
    Producer: Ibrat Jumaboyev.