President Dmitry Medvedev is reportedly planning to create a new post of presidential aide for the fight against corruption and may sign a presidential decree to that effect before the end of June. According to Nezavisimaya gazeta, in setting up the post of anti-corruption aide, Medvedev is aiming both to take personal control over the fight against corruption and to carry out what the newspaper called a “soft” purge of the country’s security/law-enforcement apparatus, thereby getting rid of some of his enemies among the “siloviki.”
According to Nezavisimaya gazeta, the new presidential aide formally will be involved in the fight against corruption within the state apparatus in general, not simply inside the law-enforcement bodies, and will be responsible for drafting legislation and statutes aimed at intensifying the fight against bribe-taking at all levels of the bureaucracy. The new presidential anti-corruption aide, however, will above all be involved in preparing “certain personnel reshuffles” inside the Federal Security Service (FSB), Interior Ministry (MVD) and Federal Narcotics Control Service (FSKN) and in providing Medvedev with lists of the most “odious” corrupt officials inside these bodies, the newspaper reported.
Citing unnamed Kremlin sources, Nezavisimaya gazeta reported that the main candidate for Medvedev’s anti-corruption aide is General-Major of Justice Igor Tsokolov, who is the official in the MVD’s Investigative Committee in charge of the fight against international economic crime. Throughout his career, Tsokolov has led a number of high-level corruption investigations, including the Golden ADA case in the mid-1990s, in which several top Russian officials–Yevgeny Bychkov, then chairman of the Russian Committee for Precious Gems and Metals, and former Moscow Financial Department chief Igor Moskovsky–were accused of involvement in the theft of diamonds from the state and their sale for more than $140 million through the San Francisco-based company Golden ADA. (In 2001 Bychkov and Moskovsky were convicted of abusing their positions but immediately amnestied by the State Duma.) Tsokolov was also in charge of the investigation of the activities of the founders of Khoper-Invest, a 1990s pyramid scheme that robbed some four million Russians of their savings.
Such investigations touched on the interests of influential bureaucrats, and as a result, Tsokolov was nearly removed from his position in 2004 but reportedly kept his post thanks to the intercession of Viktor Cherkesov, the KGB veteran who until recently headed the FSKN. (In May Cherkesov was removed as FSKN chief and made head of the Federal Agency for the Procurement of Military and Special Equipment.) As Nezavisimaya gazeta noted, Cherkesov and his allies have traditionally been oriented toward Dmitry Medvedev, who now needs for the new post of anti-corruption aide “a person not dependent on the current leadership of the MVD and FSB and thus capable of giving the head of state a real, objective picture of the state of corruption in the power structures.” The newspaper added that putting Tsokolov in that position would somewhat counterbalance the influence of “those siloviki who from the start were not, and today are still not, enamored with Medvedev as Vladimir Putin’s successor.” Such officials, while formally subordinated to the president, are in fact members of Prime Minister Putin’s team, including “some vice premiers.” This, of course, is a reference to the siloviki in Putin’s cabinet, particularly Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, the former deputy Kremlin chief of staff who is reputed to be the de facto leader of the siloviki hardliners.
More broadly, whoever is appointed Dmitry Medvedev’s anti-corruption aide will help the new president begin forming his own “vertical of power,” one subordinated and accountable to him and to him only. “It is unlikely that this process will move too quickly. Medvedev is known as a cautious politician not inclined to surgical operations where homeopathic treatment is required,” Nezavisimaya gazeta wrote. “But both the very fact of the creation of this new position within the structure of the presidential administration and the candidate for this post graphically illustrate that the president also does not intend to put the problem of control over the power structures on the back burner.”
It is precisely within the law-enforcement/security apparatus that Medvedev’s anti-corruption campaign can bear its first fruit, the newspaper added. “Several notorious cases involving the exposure of ‘werewolves in epaulettes’ [the term coined in 2003 by then Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov for corrupt and criminal law-enforcement officers], in the opinion of experts, will win the new president not only apparatus points but also political points, allowing the strengthening of the Kremlin’s status as the main center of real power in the country,” Nezavisimaya gazeta wrote (June 18).
Meanwhile, Kirill Kabanov, a member of the Presidium of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, an advocacy group, estimated that corrupt transactions in Russia total $300 billion annually, with the largest such transactions involving political corruption, judicial corruption and corruption with the law-enforcement and security agencies. Kabanov said that the level of bribery in the FSB and the Prosecutor General’s Office was higher than in the Interior Ministry (Ekho Mosvky radio, June 18). Earlier this month, Vasily Piskayrov, a senior official at the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General’s Office, said that corrupt officials siphon off close to a third of the government’s annual budget. That would come to around $120 billion, given that the federal budget for 2008 totals $376 billion (www.forbes.com, June 6).