Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 200

Several Russian newspapers treated Grigory Yavlinsky’s remarks somewhat critically, noting that by not naming names, he is probably safe from lawsuits while gaining political points. Some said his demarche was another step in his presidential bid. Others called it an attempt to convince Primakov to dump his current cabinet for one made up of Yabloko members: Yavlinsky refused to join Primakov’s cabinet because of the presence of people like Maslyukov. Few Russians, however, would completely exclude the possibility that a ministerial portfolio could be bought. As Segodnya’s Giorgy Bovt wrote: “It is simplest of all to claim that any Russian government, even one with the cleanest intentions, is obviously doomed to corruption. Because it regulates too much, and wants to regulate more and more. Because too much depends on subjective … decisions by its bureaucrats, and their official salaries are too small to expect they wouldn’t ‘err’ in someone’s favor. Because Russian society itself isn’t able to control its rulers from below, hasn’t learned how to and even, on the whole, honestly does not want to” (Segodnya, October 29).

As Bovt noted, Yavlinsky, in a separate interview aired Sunday on NTV television, lashed out at the cabinet for being not a team of like-minded specialists, but representatives of various powerful lobbying interests. The Russian press has noted that Maslyukov is close to Russia’s military-industrial enterprises. Gennady Kulik, another vice premier and a member of the Agrarian Party, is close to the collective farm managers’ lobby. State Tax Services chief Giorgy Boos is close to the Moscow city government. The line between “lobbying” by powerful interests and outright corruption in today’s Russia is a very fine one. State Duma Deputy Konstantin Borovoy, for example, said last year that the State Duma had become a “closed joint-stock company” whose members sell their influence to large corporations and foreign states for big bucks. In late 1996, “Segodnya” reported that one of Moscow’s criminal groups was receiving a “stable percentage” of the government’s agricultural credits.

In any case, corruption continues to permeate the Russian state at all levels. Not long ago, “Moskovsky komsomolets” published its “price list” of bribes to the Moscow police. According to the newspaper, it costs from 50 rubles (a little more than US$3) to US$150 to guarantee a positive outcome to an inspection of a commercial stall, and at least US$5000 to have a murder case solved–or shut down (Moskovsky komsomolets, October 17).