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Resignation And Reform In Russia

Most Russians think the battle against corruption is already lost. More than half believe graft is an “unavoidable and permanent fact of life.” And 58% say it’s impossible to fight against it. The numbers come from a survey released last month by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center, reported by RIA Novosti here.

The poll found that 44% of Russians consider the greed and immorality of officials to be the main causes of corruption. And 49% think it would be easier for them to cope with legal and other problems if officials stopped taking bribes.

RIA Novosti said the poll involved 1,600 people in 140 Russian towns and cities on April 4-5 this year.

The poll’s findings are reflected by Russia’s worsening position on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. In 2004 it ranked 90th; it fell to 121st in 2006; and last year it sank to 147th, tied with Bangladesh, Kenya and Syria. The CPI rates countries according to how much corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians. It’s a composite index — a poll of polls — drawing on corruption-related data from expert and business surveys by at least three third-party sources for each country.

Despite the gloom among the populace, Russia’s president Dmitry Medvedev is still targeting public sleaze. He wants to change the culture. “We must create incentives for legally acceptable behavior through the help of regulatory documents, the media, and as a result of work by civil society institutions,” he said recently. “And corruption must be not only illegal, it must become improper. This is probably the most difficult thing.”

Medvedev, 43, has been Russia’s president for just over a year. He campaigned as a reformer and on the first anniversary of his inauguration vowed to take personal control of the government’s anti-corruption efforts.

Part of his plan requires public officials to declare their income and assets. That includes the prime minister and his cabinet, military officers, customs officials, judges and police. Medvedev’s tax declaration published on the Kremlin’s official website put his 2008 income at 4.14 million rubles ($141,000). He held about 2.8 million rubles ($90,000) in nine bank accounts. His wife Svetlana has about 135,000 rubles ($4,350) in various bank accounts. Together they own a 3,000 sq ft apartment in Moscow and a small undeveloped lot.

See the Kremlin’s April 6, 2009 release here (with links to further disclosures).

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