The crying policeman

Major Alexei Dymovsky sits in his police uniform in front of a bright blue wall. He speaks to a video camera in heavy tones, sighing frequently, his eyes clouded with fatigue. He begins, lugubriously: "Good day, comrade officers!"

Dymovsky goes on to recount the weary trials of life in the Russian police force. He complains of low pay, corruption and unreasonably long hours that provoked the collapse of two marriages. Then he calls on Vladimir Putin to improve his working conditions. Dymovsky's stark honesty has made him a media sensation. More than 400,000 people have now watched the video - on YouTube and the officer's own website - and the support has been overwhelming among Russians sick of an ineffective and demoralised police force. A phone-in on a Russian radio station attracted fellow officers, who agreed, anonymously, with Dymovsky's account of the job. But Dymovsky's outspoken bravery has rather backfired. On Sunday 8 November, interior ministry officials announced that he had been sacked. Now, Dymovsky says, he has had to hire a bodyguard, and suspects that Russian intelligence agents are tailing his car.

Perhaps his sacrifice will be the force's gain, however. By falling on his sword, Dymovsky has made Russia sharply aware of its miserable policemen.