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Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Russia's deadly crime epidemic
St Petersburg Luna night club after bomb attack in 2000
Russia is one of the world's most criminalised countries

The murder of a member of the Russian parliament, Vladimir Golovlev, is the latest in a series of killings of high-profile figures in Russia over recent months.

Many of the victims have been businessmen, whose deaths appear to have been contract killings.

Previous killings of Duma deputies
Nov 98 - Liberal deputy and presidential adviser Galina Starovoitova, shot dead
June 98 - Lev Rokhlin, Chechen war hero and head of pro-army group, shot dead
Nov 95 - Sergey Markidonov, member of pro-government Stability faction, shot dead
Feb 95 - Sergei Skorochkin, member of the ultra-nationalist Liberal Democrat faction, murdered
Nov 94 - Communist deputy Valentin Martemyanov beaten up and died of injuries
April 94 - Liberal Democrat Andrei Aidzerdzis shot dead
But such cases represent only a tiny part of Russia's epidemic of crime, with international comparisons suggesting that Russia is one of the world's most dangerous countries.

The Russian authorities have recently proposed large increases in state spending on law-enforcement, and major changes to the country's legal system, in the hope of stemming the tide of crime.

Colleagues of Vladimir Golovlev have rushed to call his killing politically motivated.

He joins a total of almost 32,000 Russians who are killed by other Russians during an average year.

That is more than double the rate of the United States.

Official statistics on the numbers of rapes, assaults and armed robberies also appear to put Russia among the world's most criminalised countries.

System unable to cope

Some murders in Russia have provoked national outrage, but only a tiny proportion of cases result in a conviction.

Meanwhile, an antiquated criminal justice system barely copes with the workload, and has helped boost Russia's prison population to one of the biggest in the world.

Russian experts say the country's shocking crime figures are reflective of social divisions, economic inequality and widespread disillusionment.

All made worse by Russia's infamous corruption and the often lamentable work of the country's police force and courts.

Spending boost

In response, the Russian Government has recently announced plans to drastically increase spending on law-enforcement and the national court system in next year's budget.

A new procedural code for Russia's criminal law has also been introduced.

Supporters say it will make the penalties for committing crimes harsher while taking account of Russia's new economic realities.

Critics say beefing up police activity will erode hard-won personal and civil freedoms

See also:

21 Aug 02 | Europe
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