Page last updated at 10:52 GMT, Monday, 10 August 2009 11:52 UK

Russian victims challenge police

By Rupert Wingfield-Hayes
BBC News, Moscow

Screen grab of Denis Yevsyukov, right, struggling with a woman in a Moscow supermarket, 27 April 2009
Denis Yevsyukov killed three people and seriously wounded six others

Russian police officers committed 2,500 crimes in the first six months of this year, according to the Russian interior ministry.

No, that was not a typing error; I did mean 2,500.

Here is another direct quote: "Police officers are the biggest single source of graft" in Russia.

That is from the head of the interior ministry's internal investigation department, Oleg Goncharov.

That will not come as a surprise to most Russian motorists. The fact that Russia's police are hugely corrupt is not really news.

Anyone who has driven the streets of Moscow on a Saturday morning knows only too well how much of the city's police force spend its weekends - pulling over motorists and soliciting bribes.

We approached the Interior Ministry for comment. They refused.

But a ministry official who did not want to be named said this: "The situation is really awful. Police officers are not paid properly, so we are only able to recruit the lowest calibre people.

"Some of them don't know the most basic of laws; some even consort with criminal gangs".

Bitter and angry

But can a Russian police officer get away with murder?

That is a question that has been prompted by two recent incidents in Moscow.

Ilya Gerassimenko
Ilya Gerassimenko still has a bullet fragment lodged near his heart

On 27 April a local police chief walked into a supermarket in southern Moscow.

He pulled out a gun and started walking around the shop shooting people at random, killing three and seriously wounding six others.

The evidence against the policeman is overwhelming. CCTV footage from the supermarket clearly shows what happened.

One of those who survived the attack was Ilya Gerassimenko.

Three months after the shooting, the 18-year-old still has a bullet fragment lodged near his heart. His doctors have told him he will probably not be able to play football again.

Last week, Mr Gerassimenko was told by a court that he would not get any compensation for his injuries because the policeman who shot him, Denis Yevsyukov, was off duty.

Mr Gerassimenko is bitter and angry.

"I will never trust the police again," he said. "Now every time I see a policeman I feel scared. No-one in this neighbourhood will ever trust the police again."

'No accident'

Just down the road from the supermarket, on a quiet leafy street, I meet Alexei Shumm.

He is a softly-spoken, shy man who did not wish to seek the media spotlight. But he was forced to by the death of his pregnant wife.

Alexei Shumm
The police think they can get away with anything, they think they are above the law
Alexei Shumm

Just two weeks after the supermarket shooting, Elena Shumm was walking home after dropping the couple's 10-year-old daughter at school.

As she was crossing the road near their home, she was hit by an off-duty policeman driving a powerful sports car.

He was speeding and on the wrong side of the road. The collision sent Mrs Shumm flying. The policeman did not even stop.

The police did nothing. Even though they have identified the car and its driver, the investigation has so far proved inconclusive.

"It was murder," said Mr Shumm. "This was not an accident. He murdered my wife. The police think they can get away with anything, they think they are above the law."

A month after the collision, and after a barrage of media coverage, the police finally moved to take the officer at the wheel of the car into custody.

But even now Mr Shumm is uncertain whether justice will be done.

"I hope so," he said. "I have to try, for the sake of my daughter. But so many people have told me it is hopeless, that you cannot win against the police."

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