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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

State Aims to Rout Corrupt Officials

A government agency set to open later this year aims to cut corruption by half within three years.

The agency is the brainchild of a commission created earlier by President Vladimir Putin. The commission met for the first time late last week behind closed doors to discuss the new agency, a Kremlin spokesman said.

Political analysts and corruption watchdogs said the commission, and the agency it is creating, could be little more than window dressing in advance of the upcoming State Duma and presidential elections.

But Vladimir Katrenko, a member of the commission and the pro-Kremlin party United Russia, indicated that the panel is serious about cracking down on bribes and other forms of corruption that have risen since Putin assumed power in 2000.

Katrenko, a deputy speaker in the Duma, said the new agency faces a tough challenge but predicted, in a telephone interview from Stavropol, that in "two or three years we will have halved the level of corruption in Russia." It remains unclear how the level of corruption can be quantified and what it means to "halve" it.

The commission, made up of some 30 officials from various state agencies, is headed by Viktor Ivanov, a former KGB officer and loyal Putin aide who has known the president for years.

By Aug. 1, the commission must submit a proposal on the makeup of the new government body, which must then be ratified by the Duma and the Federation Council before being signed into law by Putin, a Kremlin spokesman said.

Putin ordered the creation of the commission Feb. 5, four days after Russia became a member of the Group of States Against Corruption under the Council of Europe. The group's main aim is to increase the ability of member states to fight corruption, and as a member, Russia will be subject to a peer review process.

Kirill Kabanov, head of the National Anti-Corruption Committee, said the commission had been put together by Putin, who, he said, is under pressure from the West to tackle corruption.

"Such a commission cannot function properly," Kabanov said, explaining that the new agency would inevitably clash with a corrupt political system. "I don't see any positive outcomes."

Katrenko said Putin was keen on bringing corruption down to levels akin to those "in France, America and Britain" and that everyone on the commission is "close to the president."

Studies show an increase in corruption under Putin. A 2005 study by Indem, an anti-corruption think tank, found the average bribe had jumped by 70 percent since 2001. The study found that the average bribe was $136,000.