Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 208

In the wake of Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky’s charge that the Primakov government is mired in corruption, that issue continues to be a major topic of discussion. Vyacheslav Lebedev, chairman of Russia’s Supreme Court, said Russia’s courts are ready to investigate the alleged corruption of high Russian government officials. Lebedev cited Yavlinsky’s accusations, saying that the Prosecutor General’s Office was treating them with “due respect.” Lebedev added, however, that if the accusations proved to be groundless, the Yabloko leader will “most likely have to explain himself before a court.” Lebedev, who was on a visit to Beijing, said that Russia could benefit from China’s experience in combating corruption. Meanwhile Yegor Stroev, speaker of the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament, and governor of Orel Oblast, called for “decisive and courageous actions” to root out graft. Stroev said that Yavlinsky’s charges reflected the public’s general view that governmental corruption is pervasive. Stroev himself endorsed this perception, saying corruption permeates all levels of Russia’s power and political structures. The Federation Council speaker cited the example of Italy: “In Italy, when the Italian mafia had made its way into all of the power structures, the authorities declared a merciless war against corruption under the motto ‘Clean Hands.’ I think we have the obligation… to courageously move forward–not to look for political dividends, but to protect the people and the state. Only then can the authorities count on restoring the people’s trust” (Russia agencies, November 9).

The weekly magazine “Profil” published the reaction of various politicians to Yavlinsky’s demarche in its latest edition. Vladimir Semago, a communist deputy in the State Duma who heads the chamber’s anticorruption committee, summed up the current situation this way: “Those who end up in court today are not those who steal, but those who don’t share.” Semago, whose entrepreneurial activities have led to him being called “the Red businessman,” said all major legislative projects submitted to the Duma are accompanied by what he ironically characterized as “modest honoraria in an envelope.” Semago, who heads the Duma’s anticorruption commission, said that many deputies, including fellow communist Valentin Kuptsov (a top official in the Communist Party of the Russian Federation), have tried to prevent the Duma’s anticorruption committee from working normally (Profil, November 9).

Yulia Latynina, an analyst with the weekly magazine “Expert,” wrote in today’s “Moscow Times” that corruption is the one factor which will keep Russia from returning to full-blown, Soviet-style central planning. “True socialism has little to offer the left, since it means crooked officials will have no one to sell their services to,” she wrote. “If you get rid of traders and entrepreneurs altogether, then who do you send faxes to on State Duma stationary saying, ‘If you are experiencing difficulties, then deputy such and such can help resolve them?'” (Moscow Times, November 10).