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Medvedev Says Russia Must 'Purge' Criminal Officials

Hands Opening Envelope Containing CashDec. 24 (Bloomberg) -- Russia needs to "purge" criminals from government, President Dmitry Medvedev said today, as he promised to step up his fight against corruption.

"I believe we've managed to clean things up at the federal level in recent years," Medvedev said in a live question-and- answer session with the heads of Russia's three main television channels. "But at the regional level, there are a lot of people who work according to a different code and there we need to carry out purges."

Dmitri MedvedevIn the capital Moscow, which accounts for nearly a quarter of Russia's gross domestic product, there is "unprecedented" corruption, which new Mayor Sergei Sobyanin is battling, said Medvedev. The president in September fired Yury Luzhkov, Moscow's mayor since 1992, after state media reports accusing him of corruption and favoritism toward his wife, billionaire developer Yelena Baturina. The couple denied the allegations.

Medvedev, 45, hand-picked by his predecessor, current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, is in the third year of his term begun May 2008. He has made his priority fighting corruption, which he terms a major threat to national security, modernizing the economy away from oil dependency and revamping civil institutions.

Russia is the world's most corrupt major economy, according to Berlin-based Transparency International's 2010 Corruption Perceptions Index released in October, sliding to 154th among 178 countries and placing it alongside Tajikistan and Kenya.


Medvedev's promises to reduce corruption haven't produced any visible progress and won't succeed unless law enforcement is improved, according to Kirill Kabanov, head of the National Anti-Corruption Committee.

Russians pay bribes totaling $300 billion a year, equivalent to almost a quarter of GDP, Kabanov's national anti- corruption committee estimates.

Medvedev said about 2,700 Russians have been jailed this year for bribery, including 1,700 for giving bribes and about 1,000 for taking them.

The Russian president, a former lawyer who has promised to fight "legal nihilism," said a new law aimed at improving the performance of the police should come into force in the second quarter of next year.

Drunken Officers

The law was proposed after repeated reports of people falling victim to violent or drunken officers. A draft posted on the Kremlin website received more than 30,000 comments, most of them critical.

One of Medvedev's proposals would change the name of the main law enforcement agency from militsia, literally militia in Russia, to politsiya, police. Fifty-two percent of Russians said the effort to overhaul law enforcement would boil down to a cosmetic name change and personnel reshuffling, according to a Levada Center poll published Sept. 13.

Putin, 58, a former KGB spy who is still viewed as the most powerful politician in Russia, backed Medvedev as his successor in 2008 because of a constitutional ban on three consecutive presidential terms. He hasn't ruled out returning to the presidency in 2012 elections.


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