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Moscow Times
March 11, 2009
Medvedev Declares Anti-Graft Initiative
By Nikolaus von Twickel / Staff Writer

President Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday that he would sign a decree creating a five-year plan aimed at reining in corruption by implementing bureaucratic reforms.

The announcement at a meeting of the president's Anti-Corruption Council follows a series of Kremlin-backed initiatives to tackle graft, which Medvedev conceded had thus far yielded few results.

"We have not seen any fantastic success yet," Medvedev told the council, Interfax reported. "All we managed to do in the last few years was to create a more or less transparent system of civil service. It is not ideal, but at least it is different from what we had in the early 1990s."

The specifics of the proposed five-year program were unclear.

Tuesday's meeting was just the second time that Medvedev, who has made the fight against what he calls "legal nihilism" a priority of his presidency, has convened the Anti-Corruption Council since his inauguration last May.

He told the council, which includes top law-enforcement officials and Kremlin advisers, that the economic crisis was yet another reason to step up the fight against corruption.

"Previously, you could have closed your eyes on some things, but with the crisis corruption has become the most complicated and sensitive of issues," said Medvedev, who heads the council.

Corruption watchdog Transparency International says graft in the country is at its worst level in eight years. In its annual survey released last summer, the Berlin-based organization ranked Russia 147th in the world -- alongside Bangladesh, Kenya and Syria -- in transparency and rule of law.

Medvedev has pressed for new anti-corruption legislation that has been approved in both houses of parliament but has not yet been enacted. The legislation includes statutes barring officials from accepting gifts worth more than 3,000 rubles ($85) and forcing them to inform state bodies if they plan to join companies in which they may have vested interests.

Critics, most notably Communist deputies in the State Duma, have said the legislation is riddled with loopholes.

In what seemed to echo that criticism, Medvedev said Tuesday that the legislation bill should be urgently reworked.

Medvedev "proposed to rework the proposed law with extra urgency and to pass it to the State Duma for consideration in the near future," Prosecutor General Yury Chaika said after the meeting, Interfax reported.

Medvedev also acknowledged that existing legislation is unfit to tackle corruption, saying laws are often "open to different interpretations and loopholes, which in turn increases the risk of corruption."

Analysts said it is still too early for any tangible results of Medvedev's anti-corruption drive.

"Nobody should honestly expect any results from an endeavor that was enacted only last year," said Yelena Panfilova, head of Transparency's International's office in Moscow.

Kirill Kabanov, head of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, a think tank, said there were strong signs that Medvedev was serious in his commitment to tackle the problem.

As examples, he cited the case of Lyudmila Maikova, former chairwoman of the Federal Arbitration Court in the Moscow District. Maikova was suspended from her duties last year for a purportedly illegal apartment purchase.

A survey released by state polling agency VTsIOM earlier this month showed that concern about corruption among Russians has risen to 41 percent, up from 30 percent in 2008.