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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kulikov List Should Not Be Repeated

What was he thinking? Last week, Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov was summoned before the State Duma to explain the contents of a list, supposedly of Duma deputies who had criminal records. Kulikov sent one of his subordinates to answer to the deputies. When the contents of the list became known, it was fairly clear why Kulikov was not disposed to face the music.

Two of the people on the list were dead; one offense was a petty crime for which the deputy in question had served a stretch in a juvenile offenders' camp in the 1950s; and one supposed ex-con was Sergei Kovalyov, a former political prisoner from the Soviet era who was sent to labor camp for "anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda."

A Yabloko deputy, Sergei Ivanenko, summed it up. "This is not a list," he said. "It is some kind of nonsense."

Kulikov was shooting blanks; he didn't have anything but a smear, and not a very good smear at that. It's hard to imagine any sort of rational calculation, even a Machiavellian one, behind this silly episode.

It just makes the government look dumb. Even by comparison to the Duma, Kulikov looked like an irresponsible loose cannon -- and that's saying something. But then, Kulikov is one of the brain-trusters who brought us the war in Chechnya.

It won't do for the government to squander what little credibility it has on the corruption issue in this manner. There's plenty of sleaziness in parliament's lower house, especially concerning the practice of selling passes to shady friends; but false charges let the Duma strike a pose of injured virtue.

In all the conflict between the Kremlin and the noisy band of communists and nationalists in the Duma, it's the parliament that usually gets tagged as Soviet-era nostalgists. But this episode should remind folks that President Boris Yeltsin has not forgotten some of his Communist Party boss habits.

And it doesn't raise confidence in the Kremlin when one contemplates the strange selectiveness with which Yeltsin views dubious behavior by the Duma and regional politicians. Their sleaze is described a threat to the nation, which of course it is; but Yeltsin overlooks things like his former privatization minister, Alfred Kokh, who took $100,000 -- from whom it's not entirely clear -- to write an unpublished book. Kokh also vacationed with one of the banking moguls who has come out on top the auctions of lucrative state enterprises. That is behavior that would be unacceptable in a developed democracy, just for the questionable appearance.

So, if the Kremlin is looking for sleaze, it doesn't have to look all that far.

Let us hope the list business won't be repeated.