Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Anti-Corruption Agency Planned

The Kremlin has been asked to consider setting up a new independent secret service to combat corruption, considered one of the major threats to the country's national security.

The new agency would be dubbed the Federal Service of Investigations and Combating Corruption, or FSRBK, and report directly either to the president or prime minister, said an officer at the Interior Ministry's main directorate for combating organized crime, called GUBOP.

FSRBK is part of a classified anti-corruption plan proposed by the Interior Ministry and would comprise several key directorates of the Interior Ministry and Federal Security Service, said the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The Segodnya newspaper reported the proposal Wednesday in a front-page story, citing sources.

Russia's law enforcement agencies have periodically proposed new services to fight crime, but the proposals have tended to die. The latest proposal would seem to give additional authority to acting President Vladimir Putin, although he already has extensive powers, including control over the law enforcement agencies.

The new service would include the Interior Ministry's internal affairs directorate, which combats corruption within Russian police, and possibly GUBOP, the officer said. He was unsure which FSB directorates would be included.

Reached by telephone Wednesday, FSB officials said they were not aware of any plans to set up a new anti-corruption force at the expense of their agency.

The GUBOP officer said the new service would probably be able to operate more independently and would be less subject to outside influence because it would report directly to the president or prime minister, unlike directorates within the Interior Ministry and FSB that are currently responsible for combating corruption.

He noted, however, that a previous attempt to set up a similar independent service on the basis of GUBOP and its regional branches to combat both organized crime and corruption stalled due to lack of cash.

Nikolai Leonov, former head of the KGB's analytical department, said the country needs to combat corruption before it cripples the national economy. Both the Interior Ministry and the FSB, the main KGB successor agency, have become too riddled with corruption to fight it, he said.

"Only a new independent service that would be manned with decent officers can bring corruption down to a tolerable level," Leonov said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

This KGB general said much, if not everything, will depend on whether Putin, who is a former secret service officer, displays enough "iron will" to personally command an anti-corruption crusade.

Without Putin's strong support, no secret service will be unable to cleanse top echelons of the Russian government and law enforcement agencies, Leonov said.

An international survey put Russia among the world's most corrupt countries last year. Corruption causes losses of more than 50 billion rubles a year to the Russian state, which is more than the federal government spends on science, health and culture, according to a study released by the influential Council on Defense and Foreign Policies last month.

Every month Russian businessmen spend $500 million to bribe all sorts of officials, according to this Moscow-based council. Former Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov said business executives spend some 50 percent of their revenues to bribe officials.

Vladimir Voivin, deputy head of the Glasnost Fund, a well-known watchdog of Russian secret services, said creating a new anti-corruption agency was not the answer.

"We already have more agencies responsible for fighting corruption and other crimes than we did in the Soviet days, yet their efficiency is nowhere close to that which the KGB and other services had," Voivin said.

Voivin warned that creating another secret service would be a "step toward the re-creation of a totalitarian system and abuses of human rights" in Russia, saying the existing law enforcement agencies already have "excessive rights" to monitor Russians.

Russian law enforcement agencies have the authority to monitor e-mail messages, and a package of recent amendments to the law on the Federal Security Service enables FSB officers to search vehicles and confine individuals to certain locations if they believe there is a threat of a terrorist attack. The amendments also allow the FSB to recruit army and police units to help tackle such attacks.

The package has given the FSB "the status of the 'main' secret service, which has been completely removed from the control of the parliament," said a statement released by Citizens Watch of St. Petersburg.

Both human rights watchdogs and ordinary Russians complain that Russian law enforcers often abuse their vast powers to detain people without presenting any charges against them and even to torture them.