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Anti-corruption crusade in Russia goes on unabated

December 10, 2014, 17:38 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Sergey Karpov

MOSCOW, December 10. /TASS/. December 9, marked as anti-corruption day worldwide, saw the success of a significant public initiative in Russia. The non-commercial organization called Anti-Corruption Foundation has collected the 100,000 required signatures in support of the motion for ratifying Article 20 of the UN Convention against Corruption.

The campaign was held on the Russian Public Initiative’s website and will now have to be considered by the State Duma. It lasted for just 76 days, which indicates that corruption is a sore spot for the Russian society.

Article 20 of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) addresses the issue of illegal enrichment, in other words, a considerable increase in the assets of a public official exceeding the legal incomes which the person in question is unable to explain.

In the meantime, the chief of Russia’s presidential staff, Sergey Ivanov, on Monday dismissed as a myth the speculations Russia had not ratified Article 20 of the UNCAC.

“Russia ratified the Convention in full, without any exceptions or omissions, just as most countries around the world, and our legislation fully agrees with that international convention,” Ivanov said.

Earlier, experts explained that the chief obstacle to the proper application of that provision was its contradiction to Article 49 of the Russian Constitution declaring the “presumption of innocence” and the absence of such a corpus delicti as “illegal enrichment” from the Russian Criminal Code.

In the meantime, Russia has summarized the results of the authorities-launched anti-corruption crusade, which has lasted since 2011. According to the Investigative Committee’s spokesman, Vladimir Markin, the IC in January-September opened 21,000 criminal cases over corruption-related crimes. In the same period last year there were 3,000 more such cases. For the first time in many years, corruption appears to have eased somewhat.

As he looked back on the results of twelve months of anti-corruption efforts, Ivanov mentioned not just statistics, but sociologists’ findings, too. This year 8,000 people have been convicted of corruption, among them, 45 legislators or candidates for legislators’ seats, more than 1,000 civil servants, and 500 law enforcement officials. According to the Association of Russian Lawyers for Human Rights, said Ivanov, extortions of petty bribes by police had reduced by 60%. As for Transparency International’s corruption perception index, where Russia holds 136th place, Ivanov does not believe it is impartial.

The chief of the presidential staff also mentioned high-profile scandals over the embezzlement of budget funds. Among the main results of anti-corruption efforts Ivanov pointed to the practice of “very tight control of civil servants’ incomes and spending,” and the emergence of special offices empowered to prevent corruption and a conflict of interests practically at all government agencies.

In the meantime, the presidential amendments tightening anti-corruption legislation were adopted by the State Duma in the second reading on Wednesday. The document expands the list of officials prohibited from keeping accounts in foreign banks. Both federal and municipal level officials must be prepared to declare their spending, and also the spending of members of their families, if the overall value of purchases of real estate, motor vehicles and securities or shares exceeds the family’s total income received over the past three years. Civil servants will be prohibited from doing business personally or from participating in the management of this or that company through proxies.

“In general there have been some changes for the better in the struggle with corruption, but they are still minor and hardly noticeable,” the agency Regnum quotes anti-corruption legislation expert, Sergey Nikitenko, as saying. “Regrettably, the forms and degree of corruption have changed little over years. True, according to statistics civil servants agree to have their palm greased less often these days, but the average size of bribes has grown. In all other respects grass-roots corruption and crimes in the upper tiers of executive bodies remain. Besides, the law enforcement practices leave much to be desired - investigators are not particularly eager to expose corrupt officials, or courts prefer to avoid convictions or harsh sentences.”

The struggle against corruption in Russia takes much time and effort, but the state will firmly proceed along this path, Russian President Vladimir Putin told TASS in an interview last November. There should be no untouchables here, he added.

In the meantime, more than a third of Russians polled by Levada-Centre believe that the campaign against corruption is a losing battle. As many as 38% adhere to this point of view. One in four (26%) hope that the authorities may be successful in this respect only if high-ranking officials undergo thorough scrutiny and those who fail anti-corruption tests are dismissed and punishments, tightened.

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