New Reports Highlight Russia’s Deep-Seated Culture of Corruption

New reports from Transparency International and the Russian Academy of Sciences on education highlight a pervasive culture of corruption in Russia that persists despite efforts by the government and opposition activists.The country scored 137th out of 180 countries in the FILE – Students walk outside the main building of Moscow State University, in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 10, 2015.According to FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) speaks during an annual televised call-in show in Moscow, Russia, June 20, 2019.”Where does the money go? To public revenue, to be sure,” Putin added when asked about common bribes. “Of course, officials, and representatives of law enforcement in particular,” he added.While corruption’s full economic effects are difficult to calculate, conservative government estimates put the cost of corruption at $2.5 billion from 2014 to 2017.Entrepreneur’s Rights Commissioner Boris Titov has labeled the issue the “biggest problem” facing Russian entrepreneurial growth.Yet Putin has insisted harsher punishments and “uncompromising efforts” are changing the tide.Among Putin measures lauded by outside experts are e-governance efforts and a public blacklist of government officials fired over a “loss of confidence.”State media portray Putin as something of an anti-corruption folk hero, seemingly alone trying to rein in Russia’s vast network of amoral civil servants.FILE – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gestures as a security officer guards an entrance of his Anti-Corruption Foundation during a raid of its offices, in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 26, 2019.”A real fight against corruption is impossible under Putin. His whole system is built around it,” the organization’s spokesperson Lyubov Sobol told VOA. “Every attempt to really take on corrupt officials has ended in nothing,” she said.Secret European villas, wealthy relatives, and private planes ferrying pet corgies to international dog shows have all been subjects of the foundation’s video investigations in recent years. Another alleges to have uncovered the secret wealth of former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and garnered over 33 million YouTube views.The revelations set off a series of nationwide protests last year and may have played a role in Medvedev’s dismissal in Putin’s Kremlin shakeup last week.FBK was also quick to note that Medvedev replacement Mikhail Mishustin has family holdings that far outstrip his past government salary as Russia’s chief tax officer.Meanwhile, the Kremlin has launched raids and criminal investigations against FBK, moves widely seen as revenge for the organization’s investigations and calls for democratic change.A poll last year by the independent Levada Center found most Russians view anti-corruption crackdowns as aimed at settling political scores.Sobol said the solution is independent judges and a reformed police force, but added, “for that you need political will.”

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