Interfax: Kremlin chief of staff “acknowledges” corruption problem

Cropped File Photo of Two Men in Business Suits Shaking Hands and Passing Cash

(Interfax – December 8, 2014) President Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff has spoken about corruption in Russia. In his remarks, reported by Russian Interfax and TASS news agencies on 8 December, Sergey Ivanov said the Russian government “acknowledged” the problem and had been taking “consistent” steps to deal with it. He dismissed a Transparency International study which ranked Russia 136th in a global corruption report.

Consistent steps have been taken, but issues remain

“Very many unresolved problems remain, there is no magic pill that can defeat corruption,” although “the law-enforcement bodies’ consistent efforts over the past year, the improvement of legislation, the expansion of public control mechanisms, including media attention, have enabled us to achieve certain results, perhaps small but specific ones”, he said.

“This is quite hard, tedious work, but only step by step, by making effort in various areas one can achieve specific results,” he added.

Ivanov said corruption related to state procurement and “kickbacks” presented the biggest challenges, and “we understand this perfectly well”. “It is very, very difficult to uncover these violations and prove them.” “We can see this problem, understand it, acknowledge it,” he said.

Ivanov also discussed price hikes by shipbuilding industry firms as a major issue. “I am talking about shipbuilding, where third and fourth degree cooperation enterprises (are overpricing),” he said. He recalled remarks Putin made during his address to parliament about “11-fold” rises in prices, saying that Putin was referring to “a delivery of air conditioning equipment for ships”.

Officials have been sacked

Ivanov said a number of senior officials had been sacked. For example, he said, the head of the Main Directorate of the Interior Ministry for the Far Eastern Federal District Yevgeniy Kuzhel was sacked because “his wife had not declared property abroad”, while deputy head of the Presidential Property Management Department Igor Yaremenko was sacked because of “loss of confidence” in him.

“Several governors have been sacked over loss confidence,” for example, Vasiliy Yurchenko, Novosibirsk Region, and Nikolay Denin, Bryansk Region, he said.

He said that in the first half of 2014 alone 3,700 officials were subjected to disciplinary punishment following the examination of their financial declarations. “One hundred and sixty-two of them have been sacked for loss of confidence in them.”

“Eight thousand people have been convicted in the first nine months of 2014 for corruption-related crimes, including 45 deputies and candidates for the post of deputy, 1,200 civil servants and as many employees of state-funded organizations,” he said.

Five hundred employees of law-enforcement bodies, including 128 court bailiffs and 28 employees of the Customs Service, have received “criminal penalties”, 4,600 people have been fined.

Sceptical of Transparency International report

Ivanov said however that he was “sceptical or [even] extremely sceptical” over the Transparency International’s corruption report which put Russia in 136th place. “According to Ernst & Young, corruption risks in Russia have significantly dropped this year and are lower than the global average,” he observed.

Ban on foreign assets

Ivanov revealed that the ban on the ownership of property and bank accounts abroad will be expanded to cover a greater range of officials.

“A very important draft law will be debated at the second reading tomorrow, to do with a significant expansion of the circle of officials covered by bans and restrictions that currently exist only for top level officials.”

Oboronservis case

He denied suggestions that “brakes have been put” on the so-called Oboronservis case, a high-profile investigation into alleged corruption practices at organizations associated with the Ministry of Defence. “I cannot agree” with that, he said. “That is far from being the case.”

Referring to one of the suspects, who is under house arrest, he said: “One can laugh as much as one likes but that [house arrest] is nevertheless a restrictive measure.”

Bashneft

Commenting on a court ruling seizing Bashneft shares from AFK Sistema and giving them to the state, he said: “The court’s decision on Bashneft has today entered into force. So what? It has entered into force. That’s what courts are four, that is what the justice system is for.” “If we live in a state based on the rule of law we should probably respect the court ruling.”

UN convention against corruption

Ivanov denied suggestions Russia ratified the UN convention against corruption excluding article 20 of the convention: “Statements that Russia has not ratified article 20 are a myth.” Russia ratified the convention “in full, without any exclusions or limitations,” he said.

[featured image is file photo]