Fat police will get the sack, Russia tells its officers

2011-07-01 11:17

Russia’s interior ministry has issued a warning to its podgy police officers – lose weight or get the sack.

The move comes as Russia seeks to cut its bloated police force and improve its image among foreign tourists and investors.

“The fat and paunchy will not get through,” Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev was quoted as telling a private meeting.

The head of the Russian parliament’s security committee, Vladimir Vasilyev, revealed earlier this week that Nurgaliyev had made the comment at a telephone conference.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has vowed to cut the police force by a fifth, and increase its professional level.

The officers have even got a new uniform, with a more tailored look. Now they have just a month to pass tests to prove their suitability in the slimmed-down force.

But chief spokesperson for the interior ministry, Oleg Yelnikov, stressed today that Nurgaliyev made the comment unofficially and that the written rules for testing do not specify weight, only physical targets.

“There is no such clause,” Yelnikov told AFP, saying that Nurgaliyev “did not say such a thing officially and publicly”.

“If a man weighs 180 kilograms and runs the distance in 10 seconds, then there’s no problem,” he said.

But the call for Russia’s unpopular police officers to be forced to lose weight has struck a chord.

The liberal daily Novaya Gazeta joked about the cuts on Friday, saying “If the interior ministry staff is cut by 20% to 25%, how much will that be in tons?”

“The minister has quite sensitively picked up the desire of Russians for the police to look more dignified,” wrote Trud daily. “Now the law enforcers will not just have a new navy-blue uniform but a new body shape, too.”

“With puffy eyes, hanging cheeks, bull necks and huge bellies, many Saint Petersburg policemen look unappetising,” complained Neva 24 website, saying that 12 000 of the city’s 40 000 officers were overweight.

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