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BBC Monitoring
Putin seeks business leaders' advice on fighting corruption
Source: RTR Russia TV, Moscow, in Russian 1700 gmt 19 Feb 03

Russian President Vladimir Putin has asked prominent business leaders to put forward concrete ways to fight corruption in the country. Putin noted the existence of red tape and the high level of corruption in the country, adding that it was impossible to eradicate corruption by using the methods of punishment alone. The following is an excerpt from report by Russia TV on 19 February:

A meeting between the president [Vladimir Putin] and representatives of big Russian capital began about one and half hours ago. It is not the first time for the head of state to invite businessmen to discuss the problems faced by those who have a business in Russia. We have a link-up with our correspondent Konstantin Semin. Konstantin, who is present at the meeting today and what issues are being discussed in the Kremlin?

[Correspondent] Good evening, Mikhail. To tell the truth, the list of people present at the meeting with the president in the Kremlin - the meeting is still under way - comprises well-known names. These are [chairman of the board of the Yukos oil company, Mikhail] Khodorkovskiy, [director general of the Russian Aluminum Company Oleg] Deripaska, [Sberbank chief Andrey] Kazmin, [Alfa-Group President Mikhail] Fridman, director general of United Machine-Building Plants Kakha] Bendukidze. Basically, these are the heads of the most significant enterprises in the most significant industries of the domestic economy.

With regard to the problems they discuss with the president today, this is first of all a painful aspect of the administrative reform - corruption. This has been the very issue for the entire year, while the meetings with the president were not held, and the last meeting of this kind was held nearly a year ago in May 2002. Since then the businessman have been discussing with the government how to fight corruption and whether it is at all possible to win against corruption. I suggest we listen to what Vladimir Putin said when he opened today's meeting with the businessmen.

[Putin] First, I would like to set certain boundaries for our discussion by focusing on the significance of that reform for the future development of the market in Russia. As you recall, at our past meetings, irrespective of specific agenda points, one way or another we touched upon problems of administrative barriers outside the law, spoke of arbitrary interpretation of the letter of the law by state bodies, of arbitrariness of bureaucracy and so on and so forth.

In this connection, the issue of corruption and the reason for it persistently high level in the country emerged many a time.

Of course, it is a problem that cannot be resolved instantly. It is also obvious that it is impossible to eradicate corruption by using the methods of punishment alone.

[Presenter] Here one has to note that the president offered the entrepreneurs to discuss such conditions under which corruption would not only be impossible in the country but under which it would be economically not profitable. Coming back to relations between businessmen and the government on this issue, specially for the purpose that entrepreneurs and businessmen could express their grievances, Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov was invited to today's session. He listen carefully to what was being said and discussed, but before the discussion itself could start, the president expressed one more wish that set its course:

[Putin] I would like to hear from you concrete proposals on what to do, concretely. Not just criticism. I know, there will be enough criticism here today and I can do the criticizing myself, too...

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