Police buy up special means. For the elections?
Against a background of talk about the need to reduce law enforcement agency staff, the Ukrainian police have supplemented supplies of special means. Are they thus preparing for possible protest after the elections?
While Presidential Adviser Andriy Portnov has promised that the President will soon be putting forward proposals which will cut the number of police officers and SBU [Security Service] officers by thousands, the Prime Minister has said the present size is optimum, and also promises an increase in social projection next year. .
More rubber bullets and police vans
The law enforcement bodies are to be strengthened in other ways, and unlike the social protection, the reinforcement through rubber batons, pistols and bullets, gas canisters and light grenades is due to appear before the end of 2012.
The Interior Ministry informs that the latest tender for 15 billion UAH took place this week though the agreements have not yet been signed. However a number of purposes were made in summer with delivery planned for the end of October. In August the police bought special technology and special equipment to the tune of 60.9 million UAH. Of this 53 million was spent on special purpose cars which should be delivered by the end of October. They also procured six water-jet cars as well as 25 police vans for transporting detainees and prisoners. They will also be provided with 4.8 thousand helmets and a thousand metal cordon turnstiles. The Ministry asserts that all these purchases are planned and in accordance with their yearly plan.
Kostyantin Dykan from the Razumkov Centre is convinced that this is sufficient to disperse any rallies and demonstrations. He does not however believe that it is in any way linked with the elections.
Volodymyr Chemerys from the civic initiative For Peaceful Protest and head of the Republica Institute does not, however, exclude the possibility that the reinforcements are a preventive measure.
The reduction in numbers, according to the Presidential Adviser Andriy Portnov is linked with the entry into force of the new Criminal Procedure Code. According to this the staff of the SBU, Prosecutor’s Office and Interior Ministry will need to be reformatted. Kostyantin Dykan believes that some of these changes could be welcome and points out that the present arrangement where the SBU investigates economic and corruption-linked crimes is an anachronism. On the other hand, they may simply be moved over to the Interior Ministry in which case any reductions will be of a formal nature.
He is convinced that the police numbers need to be reduced especially given the reductions in the armed services. According to Razumkov Centre surveys over 40% of respondents are frightened outside in the evening specifically of the police. The Interior Ministry at present says that the numbers will not change.
Mykola Khavronyuk from the Centre for Political and Legal Reform says that Ukraine has 700 police officers per 100 thousand head of population and notes that this is considerably higher than in most European countries.