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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Boldyrev Blasts Corrupt Putin's Russia

Old school dissident Yuri Boldyrev blasts the fundamental corruption of Putin's Russia, on Radio Free Europe:

The word "nepotism" has been increasingly invoked in connection with the new Russian government -- largely the result of President Vladimir Putin's refusal last month to accept the resignation of new Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov's brother-in-law, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, and the appointment of Tatyana Golikova, wife of Industry and Energy Resources Minister Viktor Khristenko, as health and social development minister.

Yury Boldyrev, a prominent social commentator and deputy head of Russia's Audit Chamber during the Yeltsin era, discussed the development recently during an interview with RFE/RL's Russia Service.

"It's as if we simply don't have other qualified, deserving, responsible people, other than the relatives of those who are already members of the government," he said. "This is not only unethical, but also, I think, inappropriate from the point of view of an attitude toward society, toward the people. In society there are more than enough deserving people, qualified and able, who could have headed the ministry and developed an ideology.

"A situation in which a husband and wife [Golikova and Khristenko] are developing the ideology of energy resources and social politics is totally absurd for the government, for Russia with its population of 143 million -- this is something inappropriate."

From Ideology To Practice

Boldyrev argues that while the issue of nepotism is receiving the most attention, it is not the most disturbing trend in the Russian government.

That, Boldyrev says, is "the formation of a particular kind of government...in which we have a ministry that develops an ideology and an agency that puts it into practice." The practice, he warns, constitutes "an admission of the absolute failure of administrative reform."

As an example, he cites the replacement of Mikhail Zurabov as head of the Health and Social Development Ministry with Golikova. Boldyrev says this is a bad situation not only because she is married to another minister, but because "a financier has been appointed to a major social ministry."

Boldyrev says that "if the same Golikova were appointed to some agency that purchased medicine or something like that, it wouldn't be an issue. But to a ministry of public health -- one that supposedly formulates an ideology, social development and all that -- one needs to, strictly speaking, appoint a humanist, a person who understands this kind of problem. What can a financier do there? It's absolutely absurd."

Asked why he believes Golikova was appointed, Boldyrev appears bewildered.

"If I were a total cynic, I would say [that it was] just because she's a relative," he says. "But maybe this isn't exactly so. I can't even find explanations or justifications. I simply can't find them."

A Growing Phenomenon

Boldyrev's puzzlement regarding the new government is not restricted only to the Health and Social Development Ministry. "With the Economic Development and Trade Ministry, there is a practically analogous situation," he says.

At a time when developed countries are beginning to restrict Russian investment, what is needed is "a second look not only at [Russia's] politics, but at the doctrine of economic development and economic politics."

But instead, he says, with the appointment of new Economic Development and Trade Minister Elvira Nabiullina what Russia got was "practically a second [German] Gref," the man whom Nabiullina replaced. "I think this is very disheartening," Boldyrev concludes.

Vladimir Putin, by contrast, opposes harsher penalties for corruption. RIA Novosti reports:

The Russian president spoke out Monday against stricter sentences in Russia for economic crimes and corruption. Vladimir Putin said laws have been toughened in the economic sphere in the past few years. "Further toughening of criminal responsibility could lead to arbitrariness, which means increasing corruption," he told a congress of the pro-presidential United Russia party. Putin called corruption one of the main social and political problems. "Businessmen, investors, any normal person, need reliable guarantees of their rights. They need an independent and competent judiciary, honest officials and law enforcement officers," he said. Putin said that despite measures taken so far - personnel shifts, criminal investigations - the situation has not changed. "Many people quite rightly say that no problem can be solved without a bribe," he said. Russian Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said September 28, Russia is set to adopt a new anti-corruption federal law. The announcement followed a decree revising the structure of federal executive bodies. The decree was signed by President Putin on September 25 as part of a highly-publicized, anti-corruption campaign. In his brief speech to lawmakers on September 14, Zubkov pledged his commitment to policies pursued by President Putin, highlighting the war on corruption as one of his top priorities. According to the decree, the Federal Financial Monitoring Service (Rosfinmonitoring), a former subdivision of the Finance Ministry, will now answer to the Russian government. The state-run agency aims to counter money-laundering and the financing of terrorism. The watchdog was established in November, 2001, and was headed for the first six years by Viktor Zubkov, Russia's newly elected prime minister. The latest restructuring means that PM Zubkov will supervise the committee he so recently left.




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