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2 Jul, 2008 00:17

Medvedev pledges to succeed where Putin failed

Russia is among the world's most corrupt countries, and authorities have struggled to keep it under control. President Medvedev has made fighting corruption a priority and is now hoping to amend legal loopholes, protect businesses and make judges independ

Investigators say corruption in Russia amounts to $US120 BLN a year, although other sources claim as much as $US319 BLN is siphoned off every year. That’s almost the country’s entire national budget.

“This year alone we received 16,000 complaints of corruption. We brought 6,288 of cases to court. One cannot deny how deep the problem has become,” says Aleksandr Bastrykin of Russia’s Prosecutor’s office.

President Medvedev is to unveil his anti corruption plan this week. He’s already announced a campaign to ‘clean up’ Russia's court system and he’s set up a Counter Corruption Council, which he personally oversees.

Starting with high profile arrests, like the one of a senior official of Russia’s financial watchdog RosFinNadzor, the authorities are out to enforce the rule of law.

And throughout all of Russia’s eleven time zones, the evening news shows corrupt officials being caught and brought to justice.

All this looks all too familiar.

“Back in 2000 the former president pledged to fight corruption, and we all got hopeful. We started to see officials cleaning up their act and we felt secure. But in 2003 the process reversed,” recalls Ilya Khandrikov from the Movement for a Fair Market.

Small businesses are at the frontline, facing corrupt officials daily. It's become survival of the fittest.

Ilya has long said no to payoffs. He refused to pay a bribe on principle in 2006 but he says his business is suffering more by rocking the system.
“There are legal ways but they are more time consuming and costly. The bribes may go but the racketeer’s rules of the game are still in place,” says Khandrikov.

The lives of ordinary Russians seem unaffected by the latest clean up efforts at the top. Parents still buy university places for children, recruits pay to avoid army service, and traffic police continue to notoriously pocket fines.

In a country, where corruption is endemic, authorities say breaking the habit is the main challenge.

Some say Russia just needs more time.