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RUSSIA OFFICIALS VOW TO STEAL CRIME’S THUNDER

SHARE RUSSIA OFFICIALS VOW TO STEAL CRIME’S THUNDER

The leaders of all Russia's law enforcement agencies announced an ambitious program on Saturday to crack down on crime and give people "a more or less normal sense of calm and security."

With a stronger counterintelligence service, tougher laws and help from the army, they promised to work together to go after economic and violent crimes, which have increased dramatically since the collapse of the Soviet Union.By getting tough on economic crimes such as fraud and tax evasion, the government expects to collect at least $5 billion in lost revenue, said Vladimir Rubanov, deputy head of the president's Security Council. That represents twice the expected cost of the new program.

But curbing crime would reap greater political and social benefits, Rubanov said, giving people "a more or less normal sense of calm and security."

A nationwide poll conducted by the VCIOM Center for Public Opinion and Market Research in April and May showed that 51 percent of 2,935 respondents put fighting crime at the top of a list of government priorities.

Earlier this year, a similar poll by VCIOM showed that one in four Russians thought the government was doing nothing to achieve that goal.

Official statistics underscore the need for urgent measures. Violent crimes, such as murder, rape and armed robbery, increased 23.5 percent in 1993 compared with the year before.

A parliament member was killed by hired assassins earlier this year, and another escaped death by seizing his assailant's gun and shooting him down. Newspapers almost daily report on murders of businessmen and organized crime figures, incidents that often claim the lives of bystanders as well.