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Federal agents have arrested high-ranking state investigators. What's next? ‘Meduza’ reviews the dueling theories about what happens now with Russia's Investigative Committee

Source: Meduza
Alexander Bastrykin
Alexander Bastrykin
Photo: Alexander Nikolaev / Interpress / PhotoXPress

On July 19, agents from Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) raided several offices of the Federal Investigative Committee, detaining multiple senior staff. That evening, a court sanctioned their arrest until September 15. Russian journalists writing about the case are certain that the incident is a direct consequence of power being redistributed within Russia's security agencies. But different news publications have drawn diametrically opposite conclusions about what will happen next. One side expects the FSB's raids to weaken the Investigative Committee's future influence on events in Russia, while the other side argues that the FSB's case won't have any impact on federal investigators' power. Meduza summarizes the two dueling theories here.

Theory #1: The Investigative Committee's influence will diminish, and the agency's head, Alexander Bastrykin, is now at risk

The FSB detained key members of the Investigative Committee: Denis Nikandrov is the Moscow bureau's deputy head, and Maxim Maximenko is the director of the whole agency's internal security service. Clearly, arresting such high-ranking officials can't not affect the Investigative Committee's ability to function. According to the news agency RBC, moreover, both men are members of the inner circle of Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the Investigative Committee.

The newspaper Kommersant suggests that the head of the Investigative Committee's Moscow bureau, Alexander Drymanov, might be dismissed soon, following the FSB's raids. (Or he might resign on his own, Kommersant speculates.) If this were to happen, a large number of investigators would likely leave with Drymanov. The newspaper points out that there have been significant personnel changes recently in the Investigative Committee's central apparatus; people who have been at the agency since it was created are reportedly leaving. The news agency Rosbalt, in turn, says there could be more arrests targeting investigators in Moscow who allegedly helped Nikandrov try to free the criminal Andrei Kochuikov from jail. (You can read more about this story here.)

And the newspaper Vedomosti reports that the case is getting operational support from the FSB's internal security department, which recently has been brought in precisely for high-profile cases.

Theory #2: Bastrykin isn't under any threat, and the Investigative Committee will remain a powerful security agency

One of RBC's sources claims that the Russian security forces' “clan war” doesn't break down by agency, saying there are members of the same clans in both the FSB and the Investigative Committee. If this is true, this case isn't necessarily a direct attack on Bastrykin. Another RBC source says the raids are the result of Russia's parliamentary elections this September, and law enforcement simply has carte blanche to conduct high-profile cases.

Anonymous sources have also told the news website Znak.com that Bastrykin isn't at any risk because of the FSB's case, saying it could be FSB chief Alexander Bortnikov who's actually in trouble. (Allegedly, the fight to take his place is connected to his subordinates' sudden flourish of activity.)

The Investigative Committee's own calm reaction to the raids and arrests seems to suggest that Bastrykin isn't going anywhere. From the very beginning, it was reported that the FSB was acting “with Alexander Bastrykin's knowledge.” Furthermore, Vladimir Markin, the agency's usually verbose spokesman, limited himself to a single post on Twitter, where he promised that the agency would continue its “self cleansing.”

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