Staunton, January 25 – The Kremlin has “often put the E Center” – the informal name of the MVD’s Anti-Extremism Center – “above any other force structure,” a disturbing development because it is by far the “most mysterious” Russian special service and because since its creation in 2008 it has expanded its reach across the country, Irina Gordienko says.
Its officers, the “Novaya gazeta” journalist writes, “engage in political investigations, seek out extremism on the Internet, track anti-government meetings on video cameras, and collect information about activists of various kinds” but in some places, they engage in even more frightening acts (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/01/25/71282-tsentrovye).
In the North Caucasus, Gordienko says, the E Center has been assigned additional tasks including operations against “militants and their accomplices,” tasks for which it answers to no one except the Kremlin and that as a result not only sometimes put it “above any other law enforcement or force structure but sometimes also above the Constitution and the law as well.”
And while the journalist says that the worst excesses of the E Center up to now have been confined to the restive regions of the North Caucasus, she warns that what it is doing there represents a threat to the entire country because Moscow could at some point decide to use it the same way elsewhere.
Formally, the region E Centers are subordinate to the local MVD; but in fact the heads of these service report to their bosses first in the federal district of which they are a part and to Moscow rather than to local officials. This allows them “unlimited opportunities” for the application of force on the basis of decisions not reviewed by anyone else.
Like Stalin-era police bodies, the E Center relies not only on its own network of secret informants but also on denunciations who provide it with materials it can use as it pleases, again without being subject to any safeguards. And in the North Caucasus, as she details in the article, this has happened again and again.
Not only are individuals falsely accused and even punished, Gordienko says; but whole categories of people in Daghestan have been classified as undesirable and their rights limited, something that those put on such lists find almost impossible to get off even if the basis of their inclusion is completely false.
The officers of the E Center, especially in the North Caucasus, “live in a world where each day a war is going on in which they are on the front lines.” With their virtually unlimited powers, they are profoundly affected in a negative way by this, just as were the officers of the NKVD in Stalin’s time.