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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia targets corruption

A top Russian official has announced the Russian government plans to step up a campaign against corruption to "protect citizens against economic crimes".

The new system will be supported by government inspections, headed by the chief government inspector, Yuri Boldirev, who was appointed in March.

Government inspectors are nothing new to Russia, reminiscent of Nikolai Gogol's play "The Government Inspector". Mounting corruption in Russia could be unmatched in history, though, as many local officials are believed to run their respective regions as fiefdoms, above the law.

Boldirev, in his first meeting with reporters, said that inspections were already underway in several regions of the republic, with some initial success in Pskov, a prosperous region to the west of Moscow bordering the Baltic states.

"Crime and corruption was rife. Local authorities controlled highways and ransacked gas stations while petroleum products were shipped abroad", said Dmitry Shabanov, a Russian official who headed the inspection of the area.

Shabanov told The Moscow Times that some 13, 000 tons of petroleum products were illegally exported via the Baltic states along village roads without the required licenses or taxes in the first quarter of this year. There is currently a $5 per barrel oil export tax in place.

"This was only to two destinations Latvia and Estonia , what about others? " he asked, implying the total quantity was larger.

And as allocated gasoline flowed from the region, consumers were limited to 25 liters per month, at 13 rubles a liter, roughly 10 times the local price before prices were hiked last month.

As a result of the investigation, the regional administrator (referred to as "Mr". Dobrikov) and his vice-administrator have been relieved of their duties for violating anti-monopoly laws.

A major problem with the Russian legal system, however, is that while officials may be caught, they are still immune from prosecution.

Boldirev said that other investigations are underway in St. Petersburg, the home of powerful Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, and Krasnoyarsk, where aluminum and lumber shipments are falling into the wrong hands.

The inspectorate will work in conjunction with such bodies as the State Customs Committee and will have no real investigative authority. It will simply monitor and advise the government through its executive committee which is made up of members of various government bodies, reporting to President Boris Yeltsin.

The inspectorate has its work cut out for it though, since it can't afford to pay its employees. Currently less than 90 of 130 posts are filled.

Thus, illegal practices it intends to monitor may ultimately engulf it.