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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Bars Officials From Accepting Free Trips Abroad

In an apparent attempt to fend off accusations of personal responsibility for corruption in his government. President Boris Yeltsin has moved to prohibit officials from taking trips abroad at the expense of private firms.

A decree subtitled "In the interests of intensifying the struggle against corruption", distributed by the president's press service, forbids national and local officials of executive bodies from traveling at the expense of private citizens or enterprises.

The move comes after a top state prosecutor, acting on allegations made by Vice President Alexander Rutskoi, accused high-ranking officials in Yeltsin's government of corruption in June.

A presidential aide said Tuesday that the measures were aimed at dulling "the argument from the other side", referring to charges by Rutskoi that Yeltsin had quietly acquiesced to wrongdoing in his government by refusing to fire corrupt officials.

The aide, who spoke on condition of confidentiality, said that the measure was aimed at stopping trips that "can be a hidden form of payment for services rendered here".

Travelling at the expense of private citizens and businesses is seen by observers as a widespread phenomenon among Russian officials.

"Trips abroad by provincial governors, their deputies, aides, department heads and foreign relations departments have become a common practice", the newspaper Izvestia said Tuesday.

But no official has ever been convicted of accepting a bribe in connection with travel financed by non-government sources.

"The whole civilized world views travel financed by non-government sources as a bribe", Izvestia said. "But in the former Soviet Union and the current CIS, this unwritten law is constantly violated without any consequences for the violator".

Yeltsin's former state inspector, Yury Boldyrev, on Tuesday dismissed the move.

Boldyrev, who was fired in March after complaining that he had been forced to focus corruption investigations on the president's opponents, said that the new decree was "part of a new election campaign".

The president, locked in a battle for control of Russia with the national legislature, is hoping to break the deadlock with fresh elections to a new parliament as early as this autumn.

"If the government wanted to really fight official corruption, there are more serious measures that could be taken", Boldyrev said in a telephone interview.

One such measure would be following through on a Yeltsin decree of April 1992 requiring public declarations of income from all government officials.

"The government has done nothing about that", Boldyrev remarked.