Watchdog Sees Corruption At Its Worst Level in 8 Years

Corruption in Russia is at its worst level in eight years, Transparency International said Tuesday, stoking investor fears just a week after the country's markets suffered their biggest losses in a decade.

An annual survey by the Berlin-based watchdog put Russia in joint 147th position with Bangladesh, Kenya and Syria, raising a challenge for President Dmitry Medvedev, who has made fighting graft a priority and drawn up measures to tackle the problem.

"All this data taken together demonstrates that the situation in Russia has reached a threatening scale," the watchdog said. "The phenomenon of corruption ... seriously undermines the very statehood of Russia."

Corruption has penetrated every sphere of life -- from politics to business, health and education, the report said.

"It is a very painful and difficult problem for our country," Medvedev said in July. "Corruption as a systemic challenge, as a threat to national security, as a problem which leads to a lack of faith among citizens in the ability of government to bring order and protect them."

The watchdog voiced skepticism, however, that Medvedev's anti-corruption measures would be effective.

"The existence of such a plan on its own cannot reduce the level of corruption in the country ... if the implementation of anti-corruption projects is carried out just by civil servants and the authorities while society once again watches from the sidelines," the watchdog said.

A senior Russian prosecutor estimated earlier this year that corrupt officials were pocketing $120 billion annually, equivalent to one-third of the federal budget.

n A recent survey by the Kremlin-linked Public Opinion Foundation found that Moscow was the country's most corrupt region, with 42 percent of people saying they had paid bribes, Kommersant reported. The least corrupt was the Perm region, where 12 percent said they had paid bribes, the survey said.