Kremlin Publishes Letters on Corruption

In the latest sign the Kremlin is focusing its message on the issue of corruption, its web site has posted excerpts from letters written by Russians complaining about the problem and proposing solutions.

President Dmitry Medvedev said strengthening the rule of law in an effort to stamp out corruption was one of his primary aims in his inauguration speech.

"All the suburbs of Vladivostok are built up with the country houses of officials from the regional and city administration, and their cars give the impression that their owners work in the management at a Mercedes plant," reads one letter quoted on the site. The author is identified only as A. Ivanov, a student from the Primorye region.

The letter is of particular interest following the search earlier this month of the apartment of Primorye Governor Sergei Darkin as part of a criminal investigation into the misappropriation of real estate in the region.

The Kremlin web site occasionally posts summaries of letters to the president related to social issues and foreign policy. The letters on corruption, posted on Wednesday, were the first to be published in 2008 and represented the first time a roundup of letters has concentrated specifically on corruption.

"Sometimes when citizens' letters come in somewhat of a mass, the president chooses a thematic selection. In this case, that is what happened," a Kremlin spokesman said Thursday. "As you know, serious work is under way to eradicate corruption, and public opinion has also played a role."

Of the two other letters posted, one sent by a resident of Kislovodsk identified as I. Redkin emphasizes the importance of ridding state structures of corrupt officials, while a Krasnodar resident identified as Y. Kheilo wrote that investigative programs on television should tell people about the consequences of committing acts of corruption.

A summary of the letters said many called for the declared income of state officials to be examined in relation to their property and that their relatives should have to declare their incomes.

At the same time, "letters give the opinion that the state itself sometimes pushes civil servants to take bribes by providing them with unjustifiably low salaries," the web site said.

Vladimir Pribylovsky, the head of the Panorama think tank, said that he had not seen the letters but dismissed their publications as "just another PR stunt."

He compared it to medieval Russia, when a box for anonymous letters used to hang next to the Kremlin.

"It didn't reduce corruption at all," he said. "Maybe it gave rulers an excuse to punish someone."