Video surveillance is the answer to Russia’s unrest, according to Dmitry Medvedev.
Speaking to law enforcement officers in Ryazan at the same time as Vladimir Putin was having his annual televised conversation with the Russian people, the president wanted to focus on practical solutions to the recent riots.
Inspecting a CCTV system he announced: “We should put these systems in all regions. At the moment people start fooling around and think that they can run away and nothing is left.
“But here there is all the proof.”
No criminal prosecutions
However Medvedev’s stance was somewhat undermined when he asked a police chief whether the surveillance had worked in practice, Kommersant reported.
“Not on criminal cases,” came the reply, “but there were some things with administrative violations.”
Behind the mask
Reacting to images of masked and balaclava-clad hooligans seeking to spread chaos on Russia’s streets, Medvedev proposed zero tolerance for people who covered their faces.
“Nobody should communicate with people who turn up wearing masks,” he said. “Why did they put them on – are they about to celebrate New Year?
“These masks are a sign of belonging to a gang and everyone who comes out like this should be carted off.”
And the president restated his call for unsanctioned demonstrations – which can include anything from nationalist marches to human rights vigils – to be harshly halted.
Extremism on the rise
Medvedev also warned that Russia was seeing an increase in hate crimes and called on the authorities to work harder to combat this.
“This year, at least until the end of November, the number of illegal extremist actions went up by almost a quarter compared to the same period last year,” he said.
“It indicates not just unrest, but expresses some emotions – and highlights defects in the work of the police and regional governors.”
But Medvedev may be fighting a losing battle in the court of public opinion, where nationalist sentiment remains surprisingly popular.
A report by Nezavisimaya Gazeta on Friday said that while few Russians endorsed the violence seen recently there was significant sympathy with those who fear an “invasion” of non-Russian citizens.
Citing a survey from 2009, the report said that more than 30 per cent were uncomfortable with the numbers of migrants they encountered.