Russian Prez uncovers security flaws in station swoop

Last Updated: Friday, February 11, 2011 - 10:04

Moscow: President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday descended on one of Moscow`s main railway stations in an unannounced visit, angrily failing to find a single policeman despite the airport bombing last month.

With Russia`s interior minister, top prosecutor and security service chief in tow, Medvedev appeared to copy the strongman tactics of his mentor Vladimir Putin to show Russians he cares for their security.

"There`s no police here. Not a single one," a disgusted Medvedev muttered as he walked through the waiting room of baggage-laden passengers waiting for their trains, television pictures showed.

Medvedev marched unexpectedly into the office of the astonished manager of Kievsky Station in Moscow -- where trains depart for western Russia and Ukraine -- to give the official a blunt dressing-down.

An exasperated Medvedev lamented he had not seen a single policeman at the station, despite Russia supposedly upping security after the suicide bombing at Domodedovo airport on January 24 that killed 36.

"Where are the police, how are controls carried out?" he asked. "There`s no-one in the main hall. They (the police) have to be on patrol," he fumed.

The wobbling television pictures -- which appeared to have been shot in the style of a reality TV show -- then showed Medvedev charging into the office of the station`s transport police to ask where police were posted.

The unfortunate duty officer -- a burly policeman who towered above the smaller Medvedev -- scurried to the radio to find out where the missing officers were.

In more mimicry of Putin`s penchant for handing out instant retribution, Medvedev then appeared to instruct prosecutor general Yury Chaika to investigate the security measures of state-controlled Russian Railways (RZD).

"Yury Yakovlevich, you need to sort out RZD," Medvedev told the prosecutor tersely.

Back at the Kremlin, Medvedev then telephoned the powerful chief of RZD, Vladimir Yakunin, with a blunt order to rectify the situation.

"Put order in place and report back to me within three days," he barked through a speaker phone as the Chaika and the other two officials sat obediently at a table.

Medvedev and other Russian officials had expressed anger that the Domodedovo airport bomber was allowed to enter the arrivals hall on January 24 without going through a single security check.

"Even the most tragic events teach us nothing," said Medvedev, saying personnel changes would be required.

However liberal Russian analysts have often expressed doubt if the high profile media stunts and scoldings of officials carried out by Putin and Medvedev ever lead to any lasting change.

In a clearly populist move, Putin during the economic crisis had unexpectedly appeared at a downtown Moscow supermarket and vociferously complained to its bosses about excessively high prices.

Russian state media took pains to emphasise that the visit to Kievsky station had not been in Medvedev`s schedule and he had personally decided to see the situation for himself.

Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), also did not escape Medvedev`s wrath and was told that his officers could do more to ensure security at stations.

FSB officers "should not just walk around and drink tea but work as they should," remarked Medvedev.

Bureau Report



First Published: Friday, February 11, 2011 - 10:04

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