Surge in Corruption Uncovered in Army

The incidence of corruption cases in the military and security services has sharply grown this year, the chief military prosecutor said Thursday.

Others in the services countered that the higher number of registered crimes was not a sign of increased corruption, but rather an indication that monitoring of the problem had intensified amid President Dmitry Medvedev's anti-corruption drive.

In the first nine months of this year, more than 1,400 crimes relating to corruption in the services were registered, Chief Military Prosecutor Sergei Fridinsky told a conference dedicated to the problem, a statement from the military prosecutor's office said. The crimes included embezzlement, fraud, forgery and abuse of authority.

In general, the number of cases of bribery and exceeding official authority grew by 150 percent. Half of the crimes logged were embezzlement from the munitions and budget funds. Fridinsky noted that 290 officers were involved in these actions.

The number of cases of corruption crimes by border guards increased by more than 1,000 percent, while the increase was 2,400 percent in the Defense Ministry, Fridinsky said.

Among members of the Emergency Situations Ministry, the number of recorded crimes increased by 160 percent, while among Interior Ministry troops, the increase was 300 percent.

"There is no single criminal charge called corruption. There are many different specific charges. This hike is because of the different accounting principles," said Vasily Panchenkov, aide to the chief commander of the Interior Ministry troops.

"The real number of crimes did not change," he said, adding that most of these cases are dealt with through internal disciplinary measures and not through the courts.

Seemingly confirming Panchenkov's claim, the Military Prosecutor's Office's statement said damages to the state from such corruption totaled some 1.6 billion rubles ($59.4 million) in the first nine months of this year, an increase of 3.5 percent compared to last year. This percentage growth rate is relatively small compared to the much larger percentage growth rates in numbers of crimes logged.

Calls to the Federal Security Service and Defense Ministry went unanswered. The Emergency Situations Ministry did not respond to faxed questions.

Although the figures are astounding, they may point more to increased activity on the part of investigators who may be motivated by a demand for more prosecutions because of Medvedev's anti-corruption campaign.

"These figures have increased because Medvedev is making anti-corruption a priority," said one government official, on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about this topic with the press.

Special anti-corruption units have been created to deal with the issue, Fridinsky said.

He added that the issue of corruption must be dealt with systematically and recommended that legislation and reporting be improved in addition to reducing the possible avenues for corruption.