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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Politicians Claim Ragamuffin Incomes

To judge from Vladimir Yakovlev's income declaration, the St. Petersburg governor has nothing to show for his 30-year career as a city construction engineer and bureaucrat - neither an apartment, nor a house, nor a dacha, nor a car.

Yakovlev's declaration says he scraped by on only his official salary of 153,630 rubles last year ($6,000 at today's rate) as St. Petersburg's governor and a Federation Council member.

It's declaration time again, in this case for candidates entering the Dec. 19 State Duma elections. But, as with similar declarations for government officials in years past, it's not exactly a clear picture of the lifestyles of the high and mighty.

Yakovlev's income and property details were released this week by the Central Election Commission, together with similar declarations by 250 candidates who make up the federal slate of the Fatherland-All Russia electoral bloc.

Declarations from other blocs have yet to be filed.

Figuring the dollar equivalents is complicated by the ruble's sharp fall in 1998. Using a year-average of 10 rubles to the dollar, Yakovlev's salary was worth $15,363; today, it's worth about $6,000.

The declarations from the Fatherland-All Russia candidates - a cross section of the country's political, financial, cultural and media elite - on the surface tell a story of selfless, ill-paid public service. State Duma deputies declared their controversial new salaries of about 125,000 rubles ($12,500 at 10 rubles to the dollar) for 1998. Federal ministry workers declared about 55,000 rubles ($5,500). A banking and oil industry executive declared just over a million rubles ($100,000).

But that's not the whole story. The Yakovlevs, for instance, keep property in the name of Irina Yakovleva, the governor's wife.

"In addition to a state apartment, he has an apartment next door ... the deed is in his wife's name," Yakovlev's spokesman Alexander Afanasyev said Tuesday. "This isn't a means of hiding something. They are married and therefore share their property."

The Yakovlevs also have a 156-square-meter dacha in the village of Repino, also in his wife's name. "Irina Ivanovna takes care of all household matters," he added. "Alexander Anatolyevich has neither the time nor the desire to deal with them."

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, a leader of the bloc, declared 707,800 rubles ($70,780) in income from his city job, bank interest, and "creative activity." Luzhkov owns two houses - a modest 62-square-meter building on a plot in the Kaluga region and a rather more imposing 417.5-square-meter dacha on a plot in the Moscow region.

One house has an 18-meter banya and a garage - even though Luzhkov doesn't own a car. He is whisked from place to place in his official Zil limousine. He does, however, have a mini all-terrain vehicle.

Yevgeny Primakov, the bloc's top candidate, made 505,638 rubles ($50,560) last year as foreign minister and prime minister, plus income from "scientific and creative activities" and bank interest. The former academic also owns a 173-square-meter dacha - relatively modest in size, considering his high rank - and a quarter-hectare plot outside Moscow, plus a 213-square-meter city apartment.

Primakov, who spent his career in the upper echelons of the foreign policy and intelligence elite, probably does not need to worry about transportation. The state supplies top-level retirees - as well as active officials and legislators - with government cars and homes.

And if state salaries are not enough, "scientific and creative activities" - which usually means newspaper and journal articles and lectures - are popular as the only paid sidelines legally available to public officials.

Others declared more sumptuous properties. Fatherland campaign chief Georgy Boos, who prospered in the lighting business before going into politics, has a 600-square-meter dacha with a banya and a garage for his Mitsubishi Lancer and two Yava motorcycles. He made 509,341 rubles ($50,934) last year as a State Duma deputy, as tax minister before being fired, and from his "creative activities."

The top earner on the list - made up largely of businessmen, legislators, former government members, and media figures - was oil executive Vladimir Dubov of Rosprom and Yukos Moskva, who declared 9,610,000 rubles ($961,000) and .23 hectares of land in the Moscow region - and nothing else.

Luzhkov's associate Vladimir Yevtushenkov listed the second-highest income, of 8,412,009 rubles ($841,201) from running the city telephone company, MGTS - but omitted to note on his declaration that he runs AFK Sistema, a massive city-controlled holding company. He claimed no property at all. Neither did former State Customs Committee chief Valery Draganov, who declared only a state salary of 109,890 rubles ($10,989).

The Central Election Commission however, didn't believe Yevtushenkov's claim to have no real estate. When law enforcement agency checks revealed that Yevtushenkov had failed to declare a spacious private apartment on Tverskaya Ulitsa, the commission threatened to bar him from elections. The fact that the apartment was owned jointly with four other family members saved his candidacy, newspapers reported.

As it is, the commission is planning to bar 10 candidates - it won't say whom - from the Fatherland-All Russia list for failing to declare property. Another 11 - including Duma deputy and nationalist filmmaker Stanislav Govorukhin and industrialist Arkady Volsky - are under investigation.

If law enforcement and tax officials who investigate the declarations find a candidate has lied, the candidate loses his spot on the ballot.

And if more than 25 percent of a party's slate is barred, the party is banned from elections altogether.

The same happens if any of the top three candidates on the list fails to declare anything. Last week, the elections commission put off registration of the bloc when the traffic police announced some candidates, including members of the top troika - Primakov, Luzhkov and Yakovlev - had misrepresented their vehicle ownership.

But the bloc was registered anyway on Saturday, and the delay was widely seen as a pressure tactic engineered by political enemies of Luzhkov and Primakov.

Provisions requiring every Duma candidate to declare yearly income, real estate holdings, cars, and other vehicles were passed by the State Duma in June in an effort to ensure the powerful paid their taxes and to keep the corrupt out of power.

President Boris Yeltsin tried this corruption-fighting tack in 1997, when he ordered all federal bureaucrats to declare their wealth. But it was greeted with skepticism when people reputed to be among the richest in Russia - such as financier-turned-bureaucrat Boris Berezovsky and natural gas boss-turned-Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin - declared total assets of four and five figures in dollar terms.

Berezovsky, for instance, was rated a billionaire by Forbes magazine, but declared only $38,521 in assets and a 1996 income of $431,850.