Rights Activists Say Corruption in Chechnya is an “Unwritten Rule”

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev presided over a meeting of the collegium of the Federal Security Service (FSB) yesterday (January 28) devoted to examining the results of the agency’s work last year and its tasks for 2010. The Russian president said that the FSB’s main tasks are to fight terrorism and embezzlement from the federal budget. He also said that he is expecting the “outrageously high” levels of criminality and corruption in the North Caucasus to be lowered.
“The roots of a majority of the problems of this region are in a weak economy and an absence of prospects for the people living there,” Medvedev said of the North Caucasus. He added that he has, as promised in his annual state of the nation speech last November, created a new North Caucasus Federal District, and that the newly-appointed presidential envoy to that district, Aleksandr Khloponin, will receive the widest possible powers and also hold the rank of deputy prime minister. “I count on this also helping to lower the level of corruption, which is outrageously high, this year,” he said. Medvedev emphasized the need for strict control over the federal funds allocated to the North Caucasus. “No small amount of money is allocated [there], and you yourself know its effectiveness,” the president said of the funds earmarked for the North Caucasus.
Speaking of the fight against terrorism, Medvedev said that the FSB managed last year to avert more than 80 terrorist acts and neutralized more than 500 rebels and their leaders. Medvedev emphasized that “criminal actions in Ingushetia, Dagestan [and] the Chechen Republic are evidence that terrorism remains the most serious threat to society.” Medvedev called on the assembled officials to “continue systematic work to neutralize the gang underground, its ideologists and those who carry out terrorist acts” and to involve both the “power bodies” and the “structures of civil society” in this effort (www.newsru.com, January 28; www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, January 29).
On January 23, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said during a meeting in Pyatigorsk, the city where the headquarters of the new North Caucasus Federal District are located, that the authorities must increase the effectiveness of federal policy in the North Caucasus, including tough control over the use of state funds. In addition, the collegium of the audit chamber under the leadership of Sergei Stepashin has decided to include an audit of how effectively federal funds are used in the North Caucasus Federal District in its work plan for 2010. Auditors have been in Ingushetia and Chechnya over the last week and a half to check on the situation in those two republics, both of which receive significant federal funding (www.newsru.com, January 28).
As the Kavkazsky Uzel website noted, while Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov has called corruption as great a threat to society as terrorism, Chechen human rights activists and inhabitants of the republic alike believe that corruption has become an “unwritten rule” in Chechnya. The website quoted unnamed human rights activists as saying that the level of corruption in Chechnya is “enormous,” even when compared with high levels of corruption in the rest of Russia. For instance, the website pointed to a recent criminal case involving the embezzlement of 3.5 million rubles (more than $115,000) in budgetary funds allocated for the construction of a school-hostel for deaf and hearing-impaired children in Grozny, the Chechen capital.
In neighboring Ingushetia, President Yunus-bek Yevkurov has repeatedly called corruption one of the republic’s main problems, and recently blamed the situation on “certain dishonest judges.” Earlier, he had said that prosecutors and the Investigative Committee were helpful in the fight against corruption but that the “court system” was not helping at all. During the first eight months of last year, financial violations involving more than 1.7 billion rubles (more than $55 million) were uncovered in Ingushetia –a sum equal to 20 percent of the republican budget. According to the Investigative Committee, 22 corruption cases were taken to court in Ingushetia, but no one was seriously punished.
In Dagestan, the head of administration of the village of Korkmaksala in the republic’s Kumtorkalinsky district was fined for machinations in the sale of land plots. Last November, the head of Dagestan’s Tsuntinsky district, Gusein Magdiev, and two members of administration were indicted for exceeding their authority and causing damages to the state totaling more than 17 million rubles (more than $566,000). That same month, a Dagestani investigator was arrested for taking a bribe of more than 400,000 rubles ($13,175) (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru, January 29).